Post-Disaster Home Repair Guidelines
The Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) encourage individuals whose property has been damaged by a disaster to observe the following guidelines once local officials state you are allowed to return to your residence. These guidelines apply to homeowners and renters.
- DO look for obvious structural damage to your property and its foundations. If you see significant structural damage, don’t attempt to enter the affected building.
- DO check for and stay away from downed or dangling electrical power lines – and anything those lines touch – and broken sewer and water pipes on your property. Make sure electrical outlets and appliances are dry before turning power back on. If unsure about the condition of wiring or appliances, have an electrician check them to make sure there are no short circuits.
- DO photograph and/or videotape damaged structures and all damaged property. Keep copies of the photographs and video and give one to your insurance adjuster and/or FEMA representative.
- DO make a list of damaged or lost items.
- DO contact local building inspection officials to determine permit requirements and rebuilding guidelines after a disaster.
- DO, if possible, after photographing the damage, make temporary repairs to protect your property from further damage. For example, cover broken windows and holes in the roof or walls to prevent further weather damage.
- NOTE: After a disaster, FEMA may implement a Mission Assignment with the US Army Corps of Engineers, a contracting initiative which allows for the temporary roofing of damaged homes. The roofing is usually plastic sheeting (blue tarps) and is placed on homes in an effort to limit the amount of additional damage to the home. The Individual Assistance (IA) officer will decide at the onset of a disaster if a Mission Assignment will be requested.
- DO maintain accurate records of all repairs and save receipts for repair work.
- DO NOT throw out damaged property before your adjuster and/or FEMA has inspected the debris unless it is a health hazard or impedes local cleanup. If you do throw out items, be sure to take photos beforehand.
- DO NOT make extensive or permanent repairs to your property until your insurance adjuster or a FEMA representative has assessed the damage to your property.
- If you have insurance:
- Give prompt written notice to your insurance company. If you cannot be easily contacted, give your insurance company the contact information of a trusted friend or relative who can reach you if necessary.
- Keep an accurate record of temporary repair and living expenses if a loss of use is suffered.
- Along with insurance adjuster estimate for repairs to home, obtain two or more contractor estimates. Estimates must be broken down per line item. See tips below from the Attorney General of Texas about avoiding disaster scams.
- Payment advancements are made to policy holder for home repairs, personal property and living expenses. Final payments are made only after completed repairs and adjuster review.
In the case of a homeowner whose home is uninhabitable as a result of the disaster, and whose damages are uninsured, FEMA’s habitability inspectors are trained to record damages as they existed at the time of the event (not at time of inspection). The inspector can use receipts, photos, and any other available documentation in making the habitability assessment and verification of damages. Ensure you retain copies of all information (photos, receipts) before you give copies to FEMA.
In the case of a renter, FEMA’s inspectors are trained to record damages and determine habitability based upon findings as they exist at time of inspection. Renters are still encouraged to begin cleanup immediately rather than waiting for FEMA. By doing so, they too may be able to salvage items before they are damaged or destroyed. Renters are also encouraged to document with photos if possible any essential personal property items which are discarded. Ensure you retain copies of all information (photos, receipts) before you give copies to FEMA.
FEMA Disaster Assistance:
Tips from The Attorney General of Texas: