Saturday, April 13, 2019

Why Do Hurricane Repairs Take So Long?

When people realize that our hurricane repairs are still ongoing, I imagine a sense of judgment:  "That hurricane was in September of 2017; what's wrong with you that you still don't have this project done?"

Some days I confess that I feel this way too.  Let me take a moment and recount why the process is long, while I still remember:

--The hurricane came through South Florida the week-end after Labor Day 2017.  We returned to the house and knew we had damage.  I immediately called our insurance companies and got put on the list for a visit from the insurance adjuster.  We had several visits from different adjusters.  This part of the process was relatively quick.

--We got a check from the flood insurance.  But because the amount was large, our mortgage company was also on the check.  We got the check around November 12.  I called the mortgage company and heard about the process that we would have to follow to get the money.  We would need to find a licensed contractor, who would need to provide us several documents to give to the insurance company.  The mortgage company would send the contractor part of the money to begin, and then payments as the work progressed and the mortgage company made inspections.  I was so paralyzed that I put the check in the fireproof box.

--We traveled for Thanksgiving 2017 and made a strategy.  We would find a contractor and then send the check to the mortgage company.  Or maybe we'd send it in with the paperwork on our part that the mortgage company would require.  The check would be good for 180 days, so we would leave it in the fireproof box.

--I was still overwhelmed by the thought of all that paperwork and the damage and the garbage that still wasn't being collected.  Much of South Florida hadn't suffered damage, and that felt strange too.  I had work duties, and I trudged through.

--We had a big Christmas trip, so I decided that all of it could wait until we returned.

--In January, my spouse was impatient to begin the work.  But that meant finding a licensed contractor.  You might think it's not hard to find a licensed contractor who is eager to start on a project.  You do not live here.  You do not live here in the months after a big storm.  You do not live in a place where contractors can make significantly more money by working for real estate developers than by doing home repairs for home owners.

--The first three months of 2018 were a sometimes amusing, sometimes maddening, sometimes depressing mix of contractors meeting appointments, missing appointments, promising to send needed documents, not sending documents.

--We also discovered that there are home repair places that won't work with homeowners that already have money from the insurance company.  There are many home repair folks who want to deal with the insurance company, and get the money and submit claims for more money.  I suspect that there may be a bit of fraud in all of this, but I can't prove anything. 

--I finally found a contractor who seemed to be the one we wanted.  I was fretful about the 180 days running out and the check expiring.  I sent it to the mortgage company in March.

--Imagine my surprise when the mortgage company endorsed the check and sent it back to us so that we could deposit it into our account.  It wasn't free and clear.  We were told we were on a fast track to repair, so when it was all done, we should call a number and have an inspection. 

--Along the way, I got a threatening letter/phone call that told me we'd never be fast-tracked again if I didn't call and let them know about our progress.  When I would call, I got very understanding people on the phone.  Eventually, I got an e-mail that seemed to say an inspection had been done, and our case had been closed.  The threatening letters and phone calls have ceased.  I have decided to go with the e-mail that says the case is closed, and trust that if I need to do anything further, the mortgage company will tell me.

--We had a mold company come to determine how much mold mitigation needed to be done.  We found out that the laundry room was the only spot that had mold levels that meant we needed to do something (and we have--we ripped out walls that had gotten soaked with the gutters clogged and rain ran down the walls).

--In light of the mold report, we decided that we didn't need to rip out the floors and the joists.  In June, we started the process of the floors.

--We wanted wood flooring to match throughout, so we had the flooring contractor order larger plank flooring than is usually in stock.  This was the first delay.

--We had the flooring done in one half of the house, while we lived in the other half.  This part went fairly smoothly, although we did have to wait for more wood planks.

--We had a vision for less fussy cabinets, which were surprisingly hard to find.  More than once we fell in love with cabinets on a web site that were discontinued, but it took several queries over the course of several weeks to get that new.

--Despite my spouse's resistance to big box stores, we found some cabinets at Home Depot that we loved.  It is not as easy as one thinks to order cabinets at Home Depot.  You have to have the measurer come, and then you meet with the kitchen designer to design the kitchen and make a list of the cabinets that will be ordered.  Then the measurer comes one last time to be sure.

--All was going well until Thanksgiving 2018 got in the way.  We put off the meeting with the kitchen designer until after Thanksgiving and had to cancel one after Thanksgiving-meeting.  We finally found a window of time to do the meeting, and it went well.  But then we waited and waited for the measurer to return.  I tried to contact the measurer as did Home Depot, and again we waited.  It was only when I wrote to the Home Depot kitchen designer saying that we'd be ordering cabinets elsewhere if I didn't hear from the measurer in a week.

--Finally we ordered the cabinets and then had to wait for them to be made.  We had to put off the delivery for a week so that someone would be home.  The cabinets were delivered the last week of February.

--We had to wait for the contractor to find time to install them, and then we had to have the countertop measuring to happen.  Finding someone who still worked in Corian wasn't as hard as I feared once I discovered that Lowe's and Home Depot no longer carry Corian.

--The Corian guy told me that most homeowners go with quartz, granite or marble these days.  But we'd fallen in love with a Corian color, so we went ahead.  But the color we love has been discontinued.  Luckily, our Corian guy could find enough for our job, if we were willing to wait an extra week or 2.  We did.

--And finally, this week, we have counters, a sink with running water, and electric that works for the most part.  No dishwasher yet, but the electrician comes back Monday.  Our contractor is figuring out the best way to install the big panels of tin that we're using for the backsplash.

Are we done?  No, there's still a cottage to restore.  But at least we won't be trying to live in the cottage while the repairs are happening.

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