The Florida Keys are like no other place I have lived. It’s island living with the southern hospitality you find throughout the mainland. Although the island life is what first attracted us to the Florida Keys, it was our neighbors and other Keys locals that convinced us we would have a second home in the Keys forever. As we shuttered our Cudjoe Key home on Labor Day weekend and looked back, we felt a sense of loss thinking what if our dream home is blown away? But even more worrisome was the thought that our neighbors may not be able to move back for years, paradise is just not the same without them.

The purple pin is our home, the Hurricane icon is Irma! As predicted, Irma made land fall in Cudjoe Key. This storm was reported to be one of the strongest, largest hurricanes since the 1800s.

What is the best immediate advice I can give my neighbors affected by Irma?

  • Do Not solely rely on your insurance company adjuster to handle your claim. You or someone on your behalf must document the extent of wind damage versus the extent of flood damage if any. Get your own estimate to repair the damage, construction prices usually double after a hurricane and stay that way for years until the contractor’s pipeline of work begins to dry up, I can assure you this phenomenon will not be reflected on any insurance company estimate.
  • Do hire someone with extensive experience in handling hurricane claims, insurance policies are full of pitfalls with deadlines that take effect immediately after the damage occurs, and others that are only sixty days away. Any misstep on your part can exclude insurance coverage. Despite their assurances, the adjuster hired by your insurance company will not be able to guide you through this process.
  • If you have flood damage, FEMA’s insurance policy requires a Proof of Loss form be submitted within sixty days unless FEMA extends the deadline. The Proof of loss form requires you to state the value of the damage to your home and contents and provide an estimate to repair or replace your home as well as a contents list providing a description of your contents, age, quantity, and purchase value.
  • Do Not rely solely on the opinion of an engineer hired by the insurance company. After Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Hurricane Sandy in New York, it was discovered that the engineering firms had falsified reports.