Your Winter Storm Questions Answered – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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Throughout NBC 5’s coverage this week, we’ve highlighted how this week’s winter storm is different, in many ways, from the one that left so many Texans without power last February.

Yet the hard-learned lessons are fresh in the minds of consumers as another freeze takes hold in North Texas.

Read on for answers to key consumer questions.

Are we going to see big electricity bills?

After the February 2021 winter storm, consumers showed NBC 5 Responds big electric bills. A consumer faced a bill of over $17,000 for a few days of electricity use.

Many consumers with extreme bills were on retail electricity plans that relied on wholesale prices.

As of last year, lawmakers banned these types of plans for residential and small commercial customers.

Some customers may have packages with variable rates or packages with a portion that may fluctuate with the market, but consumers should not be on individual wholesale packages.

The Texas Public Utility Commission recommends flat rate plans for residential electric customers.

If you are on a fixed rate, you can ensure that you are still under contract. Some plans may transfer customers to monthly plans with variable rates if the contracts have expired.

Every winter storm is different, but there are some things that don’t change when it comes to filing a claim after winter storm damage.

What if my pipes freeze?

If you have damage because your pipes froze, burst and flooded your home, save the evidence. If a plumber cuts out the section of broken pipe, hang on to it.

Your policy may require you to allow the insurance company to inspect it. It also shows the insurance company that the damage was not related to a pre-existing condition.

Although you already know how to take photos and videos to document the damage, you will want to save the carpet or furniture that got wet. If you can, put them in a garage.

“A sofa, if it’s been damaged around the bottom, sometimes insurance companies have a restoration company refurbish it,” said Eddie Bermea, a State Farm insurance agent. “Sometimes customers threw it away; I thought it was ruined. It’s not always the case.

“Keep that flooring, keep that rug. If you’re repairing a pipe, save the part of the pipe that you can replace,” said Rich Johnson of the Texas Insurance Board. “Anything you can do to hold on, to protect yourself and to really show what that damage has been, will be a lot easier on you in the long run.”

With ice forecasts, “ice dams” can cause roof leaks.

“Maybe it rained before it froze, then it thawed a bit when the sun came up and the water ebbed back under your shingles, and then at night it froze again,” Johnson says. “It can damage the surface of your roof, but also start leaking and entering under your roof and into your home.”

If you have roof damage, make emergency repairs to cover leaks and keep receipts.

If you need to file a claim, record any communication with your insurance company.

If the communication is over the phone, follow up with an email highlighting what you discussed. It helps you create a record for yourself.

What about food loss in the event of a power outage?

When checking in on customers during last year’s winter storm, Bermea said some weren’t aware they had coverage for things like spoiled food.

“The food in the fridge was lost due to the power outage,” Bermea said. “Call your agent and have those discussions with them. Don’t just assume that what happened to you is not insured.

Read your policy or ask if you have food spoilage coverage.

“Many policies will actually cover it with no deductible. So that’s something you could just make a claim about. They’ll pay you back and it’s usually a flat amount, anywhere from $200 to $500,” Johnson said.

A Note on Home Inventories

A simple step that consumers can take at any time is to take an inventory of their home.

It can be as simple as walking around your house with your phone, taking videos of opening cupboards and drawers. It shows the condition of your home and helps you take inventory of what you have. Pay particular attention to valuables and serial numbers.

Upload the videos to the cloud or send them via email so you don’t lose your inventory if something happens to your phone and keep your inventory up to date.

The Texas Department of Insurance has this checklist to help you get started.

There are free apps online like this one and your insurance company may offer one as well.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to finding your concerns and getting your money back. Our goal is to provide you with answers and, where possible, solutions and resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.

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