In 2004 our family was doing well. My mortgage business was running on all cylinders, we were making a profit and the bills were all getting paid. My youngest sister was going through a divorce and rather than have her rent a place, my brother, sister and I teamed up and we bought a 2 bedroom townhouse right across the street from the ocean in Indialantic, Florida. We spent a couple of months and $40,000 renovating the place and by the beginning of September my sister got to move into her beautiful town home. It was a dream come true. For myself and my family there was a guest room where we could stay when we came to visit family here in Florida. For my sister, her first home on her own. Life was good.
Then a string of hurricanes hit, one of which was the deadliest we had seen in a long time. The town house weathered the first set of storms pretty well, but the last one got us. My sister had moved all of the computers and the cats she was cat sitting for up to the second level of the town home, where she believed they would all be safe from any water intrusion. And then it happened. The wind got up under the tile roof and tore it off. She was sitting there with several cats and all of the computers for her business and a friends business, and all of a sudden hurricane force winds and rain were pouring in. It wasn’t even real at first. She couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
She grabbed up the animals and the computers, packed them in her SUV and had no other choice but to try to make it to a friend house to seek shelter. It was truly the stuff that nightmares are made up. Little did we know our nightmare had just begun.
After the storm passed, she went back in to see her home. To say it was devastating is an understatement. The townhome was part of a complex, and the Home Owners management company had been unable to procure someone to come out and at least put tarps over the area where the roof had been torn off. As the days went on, the damage just got worse and worse. The every day afternoon rains we have here in Florida just poured right into her home. You could watch the drywall literally melt down, pulling the bathroom tiles with it. Eventually everything had to be stripped down because of the moisture and mold. There was nothing left. The first time I saw it I just sat down and cried.
The first roofer who was hired by the HOA company took the full amount of money which had been released for roof repairs and he took off. He never put up a single stick of lumber, just took the money and left. We tried to get a waiver from the HOA to hire our own roofer and that was turned down. Weeks went by and nothing was done. Nobody answered our calls for help.
The insurance company was a nightmare. They decided to adjust the value of the settlement downwards, for wear and tear and they cited depreciation on materials which had JUT been installed. The unit that just had brand new ceilings, floors, crown molding and carpet installed we still had the reciepts and still they called it depreciation. No amount of documentation could cause them to up the number. And I nearly was arrested in the offices of the World Savings branch where our money was deposited by the insurance company. They would find the most ridiculous reasons NOT to release the funds we desperately needed in order to put the unit back together. I would end up in screaming matches with the insurance company and our lender.
My sister was virtually homeless, we were paying for a home she couldn’t occupy for almost a year as she rented rooms from people who often ended up eating her food and borrowing her possessions. It was a nightmare. We eventually got the townhome rebuilt, and that is a story for another day. In order to get it done, we had to use a great deal of our own money as somehow we didn’t qualify for FEMA or any local aid. It was a long and disheartening process.
As bad as it is now, I know that between the bureaucracy of local governments and the influx of unscrupulous contractors, the pain is just beginning for those people in Houston and the surrounding areas. Not to mention the money it takes to rebuild. I truly hope the funds being raised by all these different organizations will indeed be used to help people to rebuild their homes and their lives. But I am not optimistic.
Keep praying for the people of Texas and Louisiana and keep checking in on them.