Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1st and is ongoing until November 30th. We would like to remind our owners that we recommend using the National Hurricane Center’s website www.nhc.noaa.gov for storm preparation information and for up-to-date bulletins. Please take the time now to become familiar with www.nhc.noaa.gov; www.penderem.com the Pender County emergency management website; https://www.ntbnc.org/ for North Topsail Beach; http://surfcity.govoffice.com for Surf City; and www.topsailbeach.org for Topsail Beach. These websites offer valuable information regarding hurricanes and re-entry procedures which you as an owner should be familiar with.
As a storm approaches, we will also continue to closely monitor the weather forecasts and projections for any impacts in our area. We would kindly ask that owners do not call our team asking for information that is readily available from public news and weather sources directly such as those on the websites listed above – please go directly to those sources for information so that you are as well-prepared as you can be as an owner.
Action Plans for boarding up or shuttering should include provisions for promptly un-boarding or unshuttering when the storm has passed. We STRONGLY suggest you make specific plans with a licensed and insured contractor in advance. The advantage of having this plan in advance is that the contractor acting on your behalf would most readily be available after the storm to make your property safe for guest occupancy, or if necessary to perform repairs to mitigate further damage if your property happens to sustain any. In creating the plan, be sure to include instructions to check windows and doors to make sure they are locked and to secure exterior furniture.
As for boarding up windows and doors, Topsail Realty cannot make the decision to board up or shutter for you. With the hectic pace of communicating with our guest, homeowners, and vendors, we are not able to also take on the responsibility of contacting your contractor and relaying any requests to board up or shutter or otherwise secure your property. That said, we will be happy to coordinate and work with owners as best as possible to carry out storm preparations with the understanding that during such a time things are hectic and we have a variety of details we must be concerned with simultaneously. PLEASE keep us informed of your plans in writing via an e-mail including your house name for our mutual reference to our Property Services Team at CustomerServices@TopsailRealty.com to avoid confusion.
Trip insurance, if a guest has chosen to take it, is effective when a mandatory evacuation is declared. Prior to a mandatory evacuation being declared, once you decide to and begin to secure your house, your guest is required to vacate the premises – in this event the guest will be entitled to a refund from you as the owner because he/she is not permitted by safety regulations to stay in a home that is boarded or shuttered and therefore considered unsafe for occupancy. Contractors who you may work with to secure your house generally work on a first come/first served basis giving priority to their existing customers or those with already established plans. As a storm gets close, at some point the local workforce stops work and leaves the island to prepare their homes and families for the storm.
When a storm threatens, Topsail Realty’s first priorities are to contact anxious guests currently occupying rental houses informing them of the Tropical Storm and Hurricane information page we provide in our Guest Services Directory at our homes so they know how to keep themselves informed and have a general idea of what to expect, requesting that they move any light deck and porch furniture inside or secure it outside. In the event a mandatory evacuation is ordered, guests are notified that they are required to vacate houses. We work to ensure guests pack up and vacate as quickly as possible so that homes can be locked and closed in advance of storm conditions. We will maintain our team members in office and operate our office as best we are able to do so while taking care of preparations. We will do our very best to continue updates on the situation from our perspective on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TopsailRealty/.
Once the storm has passed, our first priority is to get our office up and running as quickly as possible bearing in mind we may not have power, internet, and/or telephone capability. Houses, including decks and walkways, need quick damage assessments prior to allowing guests to return. We then must be concerned with coordinating repairs if any damages have taken place or relocating returning guests if needed if the homes they were to return to sustained damages making them uninhabitable. Our next steps are to focus on the houses scheduled to be occupied for the rental weeks after the storm to determine if these houses can be occupied.
Because of your familiarity with your home, we highly recommend that you as an owner plan to come to check on your property after a storm in order to quickly assess any items needing immediate attention. In the event of damages that might be filed on your homeowner’s insurance, insurance claims processing is less cumbersome if you have personally seen and photographed your home’s damages. While we will gladly provide access to your home to insurance adjusters on your behalf as long as you have given us clear direct authorization to allow that access, Topsail Realty cannot take photos, do official damage inspections, or make any decisions or sign any paperwork with insurance adjusters on your behalf. Homeowners are solely responsible for dealing with decisions for any damages to be repaired, claims adjusters, and insurance companies’ requirements – in the past insurance adjusters have aggressively tried to get our team members to sign off on claim forms on behalf of homeowners which we cannot do.
Unfortuantly, as every storm has it’s own set of problems, Topsail Realty cannot set in stone exactly what can and cannot be accomplished during extraordinary weather conditions. Needless to say and as I am sure you understand, it is a VERY stressful time for all concerned, though we do our best to keep our guests and owners happy with the services we provide.
Let’s hope for the best this upcoming storm season!
Jennier Lewis, Rental Operations Manager
Danny Williams, General Manager