The  severe weather that recently swept through the area left many property owners with damage to their roofs from the storms and high winds.  When massive storm damage appears, the environment is ripe for an illegal activity that often plagues Florida – roofing scams.

The usual manner by which these roofing scams play out is that an alleged “roofer” contacts a property owner and claims that the roofer can act as an insurance adjuster to help the property owner with the insurance claim.  The crooked roofer will promise the world to the property owner in order to get the property owner to hire the roofer to “handle” the claim, and may also request that the property owner assign to the roofer all rights to any of the proceeds of the insurance claim.  The roofer will then perform substandard repairs to the property and submit an inflated bill for these services to the insurance company.  The roofer will often times, as an “additional service” to the property owner, attempt to trick the insurance company into paying for other (non-roof) portions of the property by hiding/misnaming such costs in his bill for roofing repairs.  Many of these crooked roofers are fly-by-night operators that merely swing into town after a storm event and then, once the work dries up, move on to the next town – with no intention of standing behind their roofing repairs or providing any sort of warranty.

This activity is not only unethical, but illegal as well.  Before you hire a roofing contractor, make sure you research the contractor’s track record with the Better Business Bureau and make sure the contractor provides accurate contact information in case there is an issue with their work.  Lastly, if you ever have a dispute with your insurance company, it doesn’t make sense to hire a roofing company to advocate your claim – hire either a licensed public adjuster or an attorney with experience handling insurance claim disputes.

 

It may come as a surprise to many homeowners, but you may be able to substantially reduce your homeowner’s property insurance premiums by just looking through the provisions of your policy.  Specifically, most homeowner’s insurance policies set forth numerous premium “credits” for which you can qualify based upon the age and condition of your home.  These available credits are usually listed in the documents you receive along with your annual policy renewal – you know, the stuff you never read and immediately throw away.

For instance, you may be entitled to a substantial premium discount if your roof has wind mitigation straps.  These straps literally “tie” your roof to your exterior walls and may help avoid the structural failure of your roof and walls during a high wind event.  If your home was built after 2002 or if your roof has been recently replaced, your home most likely has these straps as the use of such was mandated after the building code was amended in 2002.  You should hire a wind mitigation specialist to do an inspection and to determine whether your roof has these wind mitigation straps and whether you qualify for any other premium discounts.  These inspections usually cost between $75.00 to $100.00 – a small investment considering the reduction in premiums you may be able to obtain.

As with many things, the devil is in the details, and this process will require that you take the time to read the onerous and often-times purposefully confusing provisions of your insurance policy – but you may be able to save several hundred dollars (every year!) in homeowner’s insurance premiums.  Better in your pocket than in your insurance company’s wallet!  As always, should you have any questions regarding your insurance policy, please feel free to give our office a call.

Now that the hurricane season has officially begun, the prevention of wind damage should be on the forefront of every Floridian’s mind.  Although there is nothing we can do to prevent hurricanes or other storms from occurring, there are steps we can take to minimize the damage these storms cause to our homes and property.

The first step is to inspect your roof for any loose, damaged or missing shingles.   This pre-existing damage makes your roof more susceptible to damage once the storm winds begin.  While inspecting your roof, also check your attic for swollen wood or moisture that could indicate a leak in the roof.  Also check your windows and doors for maintenance issues and verify that the caulking to your windows and door jambs is in good condition.  These simple steps could save you thousands of dollars in damage repairs once the wind begins to blow and water starts looking for a way to get into your house and cause damage.

You should also check your property for dangerous looking limbs and branches.  Wind is Mother Nature’s way of pruning, so check trees on your property for potential hazards.  If any limbs are hanging over your home and looking as if they may be dead or damaged, these limbs should be removed immediately in order to avoid wind damage.

The Beaufort Wind Scale, as set forth by the University of North Carolina, has set forth the following guidelines for the damage expected to be caused by the following wind speeds:

39 MPH – Gale force winds; twigs and small branches blown off trees.

47 MPH – Strong gale force winds; minor structural damage may occur, such as shingles blown off roof.

55 MPH – Storm winds; trees can be uprooted and structural damage is likely.

64 MPH – Violent storm; widespread damage to structures.

74 MPH+ – Hurricane force winds.

As indicated by the guidelines above, even a minor wind storm can cause a substantial amount of damage to your home and property.  Although our firm stands ready to assist Florida property owners with any wind damage insurance claims they may have, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the performance of a few pre-emptive steps may help to prevent headaches from wind damage down the road.

Recently, the Sun Sentinel newspaper wote an article regarding some of the urban legends, myths and not-quite-accurate beliefs some people have about hurricanes.  Although on initial blush such information may seem like just interesting fodder for conversations at the water cooler, the reality is that the information contained in this article could save a lot of heartache and help avoid an unnecessary loss of property.  The full text of the article appears below: 

Like many catastrophic phenomena, hurricanes have become encrusted with mythology.

From bad advice on how to protect your home to erroneous ideas about the most dangerous regions within a hurricane, meteorologists hear all sorts of lore from the public. Some are harmless baloney, others are genuinely dangerous.

“There are a lot of hurricane myths out there. Many contain a grain of truth. That’s how they got started,” said Steve Letro, a retired meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. “Our challenge is to convince the public that official information is actually going to be more correct than what they heard from the guy standing in line at Walmart.”

Here are some of the myths, according to Letro and Chris Landsea, science and operations officer of the National Hurricane Center. They spoke last week at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Myth: To prepare for a hurricane, tape up your windows with masking tape. This idea actually appeared in publications of the old U.S. Weather Bureau, and a recent survey by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes found that 70 percent of people in the southeastern United States believed this is an effective way to protect your home.

Reality: This accomplishes nothing and yields a false sense of security. A wind-born tree branch, coconut or garbage can would smash through glass with or without tape. Use shutters or impact glass.

Myth: When a hurricane is approaching, you should open windows on the side of the house where the wind is not expected so you can equalize the air pressure and prevent your house from exploding.

Reality: Completely unnecessary because the pressure changes slowly and no house is airtight, so it will equalize anyway. Opening windows as a hurricane approaches only invites in blasts of wind, rain and debris.

Myth: The strongest winds in a hurricane can be found in the storm’s northeast quadrant.

Reality: Usually this is the case, but not always. For instance, because Wilma approached Florida from the west in 2005, its strongest winds were in its southwest quadrant.

Myth: If a hurricane’s sustained winds are 100 mph and it’s moving west at 15 mph, it’s packing a wind total of 115 mph.

Reality: Wrong. The National Hurricane Center already did the math for you to come up with the wind speed. It will vary through the hurricane, but you can’t just add the steering winds to the rotating winds and come up with the total.

Myth: The storm surge of a hurricane is primarily a result of the lowered air pressure sucking the water up as if through a straw.

Reality: Although the “barometric effect” is a factor, 95 percent of the cause of the storm surge is the hurricane’s winds pushing the water toward shore.

Myth: Hurricanes turn toward the north because they’re following the Gulf Stream.

Reality: Not completely off base, but still wrong. The Gulf Stream current and the typical paths of hurricanes are both the result of northerly wind patterns along the southeast coast of the United States, which is part of the larger circulation of winds around the center of the North Atlantic.

Myth: This is the 21st century, and we should be able to put our technological wizardry to work to destroy hurricanes. We can accomplish this by towing icebergs from the arctic to weaken them with cold water, using giant pipes to bring up cold water from the ocean depths, seeding clouds to force the rain out of them at sea, coat the ocean along their path with oil to stop evaporating water from powering the storm, erecting giant fans to blow the hurricane back out to sea or breaking up a hurricane with hydrogen bombs.

Reality: All impossible, and a few would make things worse. Like many crackpot ideas, however, they are built around a kernel of reality. It would theoretically be possible to fatally weaken a hurricane with icebergs, but towing enough of them into its path would require all the merchant ships currently in service in the world. Even nuclear weapons don’t have sufficient power to do the job. All they would accomplish would be to create a radioactive hurricane.

Hopefully, the information in the above article will come in handy – if not at the water cooler, than in preparation for an upcoming storm. 

 

Last fall, Hurricane Sandy caused devastating damage to the eastern seaboard – yet the National Hurricane Center did not issue any sort of hurricane warning to the people north of North Carolina.  It is not that the National Hurricane Center was negligent in any way, it is just that by the time Sandy reached the more northern coastlines, Sandy’s maximum sustained winds had died down below the 74 mile per hour threshold in order to be considered a hurricane.  Since Sandy was no longer a hurricane, the storm did not qualify under the then existing standards to issue a hurricane warning to those in the path of the storm.  Clearly, even though the storm did not officially qualify as a hurricane and was “only” a tropical storm upon landfall, Sandy still brought catastrophic damage and caused billions of dollars of destroyed property.

The National Hurricane Center is working to fix this problem.  The Center has now added the following phrase to its definition of Hurricane Warning – “Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.”  Hopefully this expanded definition will better allow the National Hurricane Center to better warn those people in harm’s way and to help mitigate the catastrophic property losses arising out of such storms – hurricane or not.