CONSUMER BEWARE: Rebuilding after a disaster

contractors2With the flooding and other tragedies that have occurred across the state, it is important that consumers be aware of Chapter 57 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code that was enacted by HB 1711 effective September 1, 2011. The bill applies to contractors who remove, clean, sanitize, demolish, reconstruct, or otherwise treat improvements to real property as a result of damage or destruction to that property caused by a natural disaster. Specifically, it requires that a “disaster remediation” contract must be in writing and prohibits a “disaster remediation contractor” from requiring payment prior to beginning work or charging a partial payment in any amount disproportionate to the work that has been performed. However, the statute exempts contractors that have held a business address for at least one year in the county or adjacent county where the work occurs.

Please see the text of HB 1711 for details. Contact your local Home Builders Association for a list of contractors.

Download this document for important phone numbers and information on rebuilding after a disaster. (CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR PDF)

TEXAS WINDSTORM REFORM BILL

twiaIt’s no secret that it costs a lot to live on the coast, especially once you add up your taxes, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, and windstorm insurance. And in 2012, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) proceeded forward with several proposals to fund the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), the provider of last resort for windstorm insurance on our coast. It was then that TWIA adopted a 5% increase on all residential and commercial windstorm insurance policies to policyholders in the 14 counties (Aransas, Brazoria, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, and Willacy) comprising the Texas Coast. This was the third rate increase since 2009. But the long fight is finally over.

Back in May, State Rep. Hunter announced that Senate Bill 900 has passed the Texas House of Representatives, a major victory.

And now after years of the unknown, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has just signed into law the Windstorm Insurance Reform Bill. The bill will spread the cost of storm-related increases to the rest of Texas instead of having the lion’s share being paid by the 14 coastal counties.

Last year, on March 5, over 400 residents came to a public hearing the city held at Texas A&M for our residents to voice their opposition to the proposed “tax,” as State Representative Todd Hunter referred to it. He pointed out that the TWIA website specifically states that they do not discriminate against geographical locations, which is exactly what this surcharge would have done. Rep. Hunter suggested doing an economic analysis on the minority groups affected. Perhaps his suggestion was heard.

Hunter believes the measure will benefit property owners along the Texas coast should a hurricane strike. For instance, when hail or tornadoes pummel other parts of Texas, funding from our coastal counties goes toward aid. But what if our coast gets hit with a hurricane? It has been on us and us alone to pay for the damages. This has made many of our residents scratch their heads. But this bill creates a new funding structure to provide fair and better insurance rates throughout the 14 coastal counties in Texas. It also changes the makeup of the Texas Insurance Board.

Over the years, there has been a lot of support from our local power forces. Mayor Nelda Martinez explained this surcharge would have a burdensome affect on the momentum of our community, and that an increase in insurance over the past 14 years will economically sink these 14 counties. She wrapped it up by saying “Mother nature doesn’t discriminate…”

JJ Johnson with TPCO American noted that with all the new big plants coming to Corpus (TPCO, Cheniere Energy, M&G Chemicals, Schlitterbahn…) there will be thousands of workers, too. We need to ensure that our new laborers on blue-collar salaries can afford to live here.

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa commented on the misconception that all coastal residents are rich. In reality, we’re just like the rest of working America, where many of us can’t afford to pay much more.

At the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors luncheon at the Corpus Christi Town Club on March 13 2014, Representative Hunter explained that they will probably pass the rule, but they may be hesitant to enforce it. He promises to “fight them forever.”

Here’s to hoping he doesn’t have to!

WINDSTORM INSURANCE: WILL ISLANDERS END UP PAYING EVEN MORE?

It’s no secret that it costs a lot to live on the coast, especially once you add up your taxes, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, windstorm insurance, etc. But it could get worse. The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) may be adding surcharges to existing rate policies that could greatly increase insurance costs for our Coastal Bend residents in these 14 coastal counties: Aransas, Brazoria, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson,
Kenedy, Kleberg, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, and Willacy.

Perhaps it’s because we haven’t had a catastrophic event since Hurricane Celia in 1970, but in the event of hurricane damage that exceeds the amount the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) can pay, all of the below policy holders will be assessed a yet unspecified amount of money.

  • Auto policy
  • Motorcycle policy
  • Recreational vehicle policy
  • Boat policy
  • Homeowners policy
  • Windstorm policy
  • Renter’s insurance policy
  • Commercial building policy
  • Fire and allied lines
  • Farm and Ranch owners

 

What really stings here is this: when hail or tornadoes pummel other parts of Texas,funding from our coastal counties goes toward aid. But what about if our coast gets hit with a hurricane? It’s on us and us alone to pay for the damages. This is making many of our residents scratch their heads.

On March 5, over 400 residents came to a public hearing the city held at Texas A&M for our residents to voice their opposition to the proposed “tax,” as Representative Todd Hunter referred to it. Below are some of the arguments made during the hearing:

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa commented on the misconception that all coastal residents are rich. In reality, we’re just like the rest of working America, where many of us can’t afford to pay much more. 

State Representative Todd Hunter expanded upon this idea, calling the surcharge a discrimination on the minority population of the 14 coastal counties. He pointed out that the TWIA website specifically states that they do not discriminate against geographical locations, which is exactly what this surcharge s. Before any surcharge law is passed, Representative Hunter suggests doing an economic analysis on the minority groups affected.  

Mayor Nelda Martinez explained this surcharge would have a burdensome affect on the momentum of our community, and that an increase in insurance over the past 14 years will economically sink these 14 counties. She wrapped it up by saying “Mother nature doesn’t discriminate…”  

JJ Johnson with TPCO American noted that with all the new big plants coming to Corpus (TPCO, Cheniere Energy, M&G Chemicals, Schlitterbahn…) there will be thousands of workers, too. We need to ensure that our new laborers on blue-collar salaries can afford to live here.

This surcharge could add up to hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars extra per person per year. At the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors luncheon at the Corpus Christi Town Club on March 13, Representative Hunter explained that they will probably pass the rule, but they may be hesitant to enforce it. He promises to “fight them forever.”

The general consensus seems to be that our coastal residents should not pay these surcharges. Or, at the very least, spread the cost evenly across the state. As it turns out, there’s been a conclusion since 2009, but only now will this law be put into effect. After Hurricane Ike hit, the Insurance Council of Texas approved these surcharges,
given any subsequent hurricane damage exceeding $1 billion dollars. Here’s to testing our luck!