Harvey Flood Relief Facebook Page – fb.me/harveyfloodhouston
Message from Director of the Kino-Eye Center:
Like so many others in the Houston area, we lost our home and most of our belongings in the Harvey flood. We just finished rebuilding from the 2015 Memorial Day flood a week prior to Harvey, so it has been a demoralizing experience.
In hopes of helping others in the Houston area navigate many of the difficulties that we faced during the first flood, I will continue to update this page with tips and information that will serve as a resource for those who are rebuilding and recovering. Among the topics covered will be dealing with FEMA and insurance, pitfalls of the water remediation and construction process, benefits of a public adjuster, and other key questions.
Please feel free to contact me directly with questions. Again, I am not an expert or professional in the area of flood recovery, just someone who has gone through the process and learned a few of the ins and outs. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to help, but I will do my best to respond and point you in the right direction.
Cesare Wright, Ph.D., M.F.A.
RCEL Lecturer & Outreach/Leadership Specialist | Rice Center for Engineering Leadership | Rice University
President | Kino-Eye Center for Visual Innovation | www.visanth.org
Mobile – (713) 614-7392 | Email – email@example.com
Overview of City of Houston regulations for rebuilding and “substantial damage” – https://www.houstonemergency.org/repairing-flood-damage-in-the-floodplain-frequently-asked-questions-faq/
Federal (FEMA) disaster relief info, resources, and registration for eligibility – https://www.disasterassistance.gov/
City of Houston Floodplain Management Office – https://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/floodplain.html
Top 5 Flood Recovery Tips
Tip #1 – Be prepared to fight the City of Houston on the “substantial damage” ordinance (Chapter 19 of the Houston City Code), which will effectively prevent you from rebuilding if they determine that your property suffered more than 50% damage. There are very specific FEMA guidelines or requirements for how this determination is to be made, but the City of Houston Floodplain Management Office largely ignored and violated this process during the last flood, and it was EXTREMELY difficult for many ppl to get off of the “substantial damage” list.
Tip #2 – BE CAREFUL signing a contract for immediate flood remediation with the crews that flood in from out of state. Many of them tricked ppl into signing absurdly high contracts for demo and remediation. They also try to get you to sign a direct billing contract, so that they can charge your insurance an open-ended amount. Since insurance limits the number of fans and dehumidifiers that they will pay for, you will end up paying the difference if the remediation contractors packs in a bunch of unnecessary expenses. Some of my neighbors during the last flood ended up paying $10-20k for $2-6k worth of water remediation. Also more generally be leery of the flood vultures – out of town crews who swoop in after the flood and try to pick up flood damage work. Some are legit, others will take 50% down and bail out without doing the work. Make sure to check credentials and reviews to get a reputable contractor.
Tip #3 – A public adjuster can be very useful (mine got us over $80k more than the initial insurance offer). The PA will generally get 10% of “new money” that they are able to earn you over the initial proof of loss offer. DO NOT sign with a PA until AFTER your initial insurance adjuster estimate. If you sign after the initial offer, you can usually pay 10% of money that the PA secures OVER (not including) the initial offer. This way you are in a no-lose situation, since you only pay a % of what they get you above what you would otherwise have received.
Tip #4 – Get a good contractor ASAP, and have a detailed estimate prepared. FEMA will accept your contractor’s estimate over the insurance adjustors estimate, so you want to get the higher, more accurate contractor’s estimate in ASAP. Also, the contractor’s estimate may be used as evidence that your home is not substantially damaged, if your estimate for repairs is less than 50% of the appraised value of the structure. If damage estimate is greater than 50%, you can still get off the “substantial damage” list by having an inspector from the Office of Floodplain Management or the Flood Control District do a site inspection and rate the relative % of structural damage on a physical, rather than monetary basis.
Tip #5 – Know what is covered. The insurance adjusters WILL NOT tell you what you don’t know. This includes everything from gypsum board (full exterior brick replacement) to cost of matching custom lower cabinets to uppers (which they will try not to cover). My claim ultimately included over $60k in covered items that I would not have even know to ask for – and the insurance adjuster certainly wasn’t going to tell us.
I am working to set up a series of information sessions at Rice University, community-based businesses, and resource centers around Houston.
Please check back for more info or visit our page at fb.me/harveyfloodhouston