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Following severe weather events, Commerce Department offers help for storm victims

June 26, 2012

For Immediate Release:
 
Recent severe weather, hail damage and flooding create wave of insurance questions for consumers

ST. PAUL, MN – Several weeks of severe weather across Minnesota has caused golf ball sized hail in Detroit Lakes, downed trees and power lines in Apple Valley and Hastings, and severe flooding in Duluth, Moose Lake, and Cannon Falls. As Minnesotans begin to assess damage to their homes and businesses, waterlogged basements, and broken windshields, the Minnesota Department of Commerce is on hand to help consumers understand their rights, resolve insurance claims, and provide energy and weatherization assistance to low-income Minnesotans.

“The first hours and days after a storm can be stressful,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “But it is important for consumers to understand their rights, look out for possible scams, and have the resources they need to make informed decisions about their insurance coverage. 

“I encourage all Minnesota residents affected by these storms to visit our online Disaster Information Center or call our department’s Consumer Response Team to learn more about flood and storm coverage and how to properly process an insurance claim after a storm.”

Help With Insurance Claims
The Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Response Team (CRT) is ready to help consumers in the event of a natural disaster. Insurance experts at the CRT can help Minnesotans understand their rights, work with your insurer to settle a claim, and help storm victims make informed insurance decisions after a flood or storm damages your home, auto, or property.

CRT representatives are available to assist Minnesota consumers between the hours of 8:00am and 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. The CRT can be reached by phone at (651) 296-2488 or (800) 657-3602 (Greater Minnesota) or by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us.  

Damage to Furnaces and Water Heaters
Following severe weather or flooding, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has resources available to provide certain repair services to income eligible households. Available services for income eligible households (200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines) may include:
  • Primary heating system replacements and repairs, including ductwork and venting, flue or chimney repairs
  • Water heater replacement or repair, including venting and flue work 
  • Furnace repair or replacement 
These services are considered for homes affected by a disaster only after all private insurance, FEMA and other disaster-related resources have been utilized. In addition, qualifying households must be located in a designated disaster area and be directly affected by the disaster.  

Individuals interested in learning more about these resources should contact their local service provider or contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Information Center by phone at (800) 657-3710 or by email at energy.info@state.mn.us
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As the summer continues the risk for severe weather across Minnesota remains probable. For that reason, Commissioner Mike Rothman encourages all Minnesotans to review their insurance coverage, make a detailed home inventory of their possessions, and make all necessary preparations for severe weather damage to their homes, autos, and property.

“Make no mistake: more wind, hail, rain, and storms are coming – it is not a matter of if, but when,” Rothman said. “Now is the time for all Minnesotans to review their insurance needs and take a detailed inventory of their possessions.”

Under Rothman’s leadership, the Commerce Department has developed a one-stop Disaster Information Center to help Minnesotans review their insurance needs and prepare accordingly for natural disasters that may damage their home, auto, or property. Some of the tips included in the Center are:
 
Complete a Home Inventory 
The Department of Commerce urges consumers to take inventory of their belongings ahead of the summer storm season. Research suggests that 48 percent of consumers do not have an inventory of their possessions. Of those who do, 32 percent have no photos and 58 percent have no receipts.

This Home Inventory Checklist walks consumers through each room of their home, helping compile a list of their property. By completing the checklist, homeowners who file a claim or qualify for assistance will know what they had in their home that may need to be replaced. Consumers can also download a free home inventory app for iPhone or Android.

Information for Renters 
If you rent and you do not have renter's insurance you may want to consider purchasing coverage. Renter's insurance is relatively inexpensive and portable. The average renter's insurance policy costs between $15 and $30 per month and can cover everything from electronics to clothing to household appliances. Replacing all your possessions in the wake of a storm will cost much more.

Auto Coverage 
Storms can damage autos in a number of ways: hail damage to the exterior and glass; wind driven debris damage; damage from fallen trees; and tornado damage. Coverage for these types of losses is provided by your policy under the Comprehensive portion of the auto policy. Ask your insurance agent how much coverage you have. For more information about auto insurance, click here.

What to Do After a Storm 
If a storm damages your property, follow these simple steps:
  • Be safe. Look out for downed power lines, etc. Do not try to go into an area until the official time is given.
  • Call your insurance company to report the damage. They will send out adjusters to review the damage and assess the loss. Take photos of the damage and remove personal property if your home cannot be secured. Do not dispose of property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it for your claim. Many policies include reimbursement for storage costs incurred until your home is repaired.
  • Beware of storm-chasing contractors. Do not agree to a contract without checking their references and checking with the Department of Labor's Residential Contractors Division at (651) 284-5069.
  • Call the Minnesota Department of Commerce. For questions regarding insurance call the Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Response Team at (651) 296-2488 or (800) 657-3602. You can also visit our website.