HomeHome InsuranceFlorida Homeowners Wait for Hurricane Repairs, Face Other Struggles

Florida Homeowners Wait for Hurricane Repairs, Face Other Struggles

  • Hurricane Ian was the second-costliest hurricane in US history, causing up to $65 billion in damage.
  • Repairs are going slowly in North Port, a suburban area on Florida’s hard-hit Gulf Coast.
  • Florida homeowners face other challenges, too, from rising insurance costs to suffering home values.

In December, about three months after Hurricane Ian struck the Gulf Coast of Florida, the sounds of construction rung out in one community.

In North Port, Florida, a suburban area an hour north of Fort Myers, every third house had a tarp covering some, or all, of its roof, but only a few had contractors banging away to fix them. 

The second-costliest hurricane in American history left as much as $65 billion in insured damage, according to a report from insurance company Swiss Re. Homeowners are grappling with a variety of issues after the September 23 storm, which brought up to 15 feet of flooding and 150-mile-per-hour gusts of wind that tore off parts, or all, of roofs. 

But now, many homeowners in affected areas are waiting for overburdened contractors to make it to their homes. Demand for roofers and other contractors has skyrocketed, leading to overstretched workers and long delays and high costs for homeowners. It’s just one of the challenges Florida homeowners are facing, from rising insurance costs to declining home values to the prospect of more mega-storms in the future, and there are few signs that the next hurricane won’t cause a similar delay.

People who need repairs are frustrated. 

North Port resident Molly Antczak said at first, she was proud to see the government’s initial response to the hurricane, describing rescue crews floating down her street on airboats. But by the time streets were cleaned up, and the emergency workers went home, recovery from the storm slowed to a crawl.

“There was plenty of help out there initially, but now, it’s at a stalemate,” said Antczak, whose own home suffered minor damage. Many of her neighbors are waiting to begin more extensive work on their homes.

Meanwhile, roofers are overstretched, said Mike Silvers, the director of technical services of the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association.

Hurricane Ian response north port florida

Another North Port house awaiting repair.

Alex Nicoll/Insider

“You can compare what’s happening to our industry to what happened with the hospital industry during COVID,” Silvers, who spent 40 years running a roofing contractor business, told Insider.

For an average-sized house, a new roof can cost at least $10,000, Silvers said, while larger roofs with more complex designs can cost up to $60,000. 

For those with the money on hand, or a prompt turnaround on their insurance claims, it still may take a year for their home to be fixed, though much of the work will be completed in the next three to six months, he predicted.

Homeowners without proper insurance or the means to get work done may have to wait years until their roofs are fixed, Silvers added. 

Why it takes so long to fix hurricane-damaged roofs

The delays come from each stage of a long process that stretches from getting insurance money and securing building permits to buying supplies and hiring workers, according to Silvers.

Property insurance adjusters are overwhelmed, and the prevalence of property insurance fraud in the state slows down the companies that evaluate claims. Building permitting offices are just as backlogged. Contractors face a shortage of materials caused by supply chain disruptions and a shortage of people who want to work construction. 

Roof repairs are largely on hold except in the warmest parts of the US, leaving stockpiles of materials that could be sent to Florida. But the materials mean nothing without people to install them. Roofing, an uncomfortable job done with full exposure to the elements, is especially challenging in the hot and muggy Florida summer. 

Bringing in temporary workers from other states can be difficult. Florida has its own building code, designed to protect structures from constant rain and hurricanes and constant heavy rain. Out-of-state contractors both have to learn Florida’s code and become licensed in the state in order to do any roofing work. Unlicensed contractors have been arrested since Ian struck, with some facing up to 15 years in jail.

Antczak’s own home will require some work, but she’s been able to live at home while awaiting repairs. Other neighbors weren’t so lucky. 

One, she said, was able to get their insurance check quickly, but work still hasn’t begun on their house. For the past three months, they’ve been living with friends, with no timeline to return.

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