In the aftermath of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, wildfire or even an ice storm, your employees may encounter legal and financial hurdles as they begin to recover and rebuild.
Here are five tips you can share to help them handle some of the more common issues that can arise.
- Understand Your Rights and Where to Go for Help
Natural disasters can have far-reaching impact on our lives — personally, financially and legally. You may have issues with your home and property. These can range from figuring out who is responsible for cleaning up to knowing whether to keep making rent or mortgage payments. Because state laws and individual insurance policies vary, you’ll need to check with your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance company and local authorities to know what applies in your particular situation.
Who to contact will also vary based on the situation and your location, but FEMA, government disaster agencies and your local vital records office could be good places to start.
- Avoid a Contractor Dispute
If your home or property was damaged, you’ll likely be working with a number of contractors to repair and rebuild. To help avoid unnecessary problems:
- Select a contractor who can furnish references, licensing and proof of insurance.
- Make sure a contract is in place before work begins — and have it reviewed by an attorney beforehand.
- Ensure the contract itemizes all costs for labor as well as supplies, along with a defined timeline for completion.
- Beware of Consumer Scams
After a disaster, it’s not uncommon to see price gouging, refinancing schemes or home repair scams. To help guard against these incidents, in addition to the tips above, make sure you resist any pressure to make quick or uninformed financial decisions. Be wary of door-to-door solicitations or requirements for payment in full upfront.
- Protect Your Identity
If your home was severely damaged, your belongings were misplaced, or you were required to leave your residence, you may be at increased risk for identity theft. Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report so creditors will follow specific procedures before opening new accounts in your name or making changes to existing accounts.
- Manage an Insurance Dispute
Getting your life back in order will probably require working with multiple insurance providers (home, auto, medical, etc.). Filing claims and getting reimbursed for lost or damaged items can be a lengthy and frustrating process. Here are a few tips that may help:
- Review your policies so you are familiar with the terms, deductibles and provisions.
- Track the times and dates of all phone calls, who you talked to and the subject.
- Be sure to save all emails and documents you receive.
- Respond quickly to all written and electronic correspondence.
- Do your best to remain patient and informative.
While recovery from a natural disaster can take weeks or even months, these tips may help reduce employees’ financial and legal stress in the process.