Flood Damage: Your Rights & How to Protect Yourself
It is no secret that spring is the season of flooding in the upper Midwest. In early spring, temperatures rise causing snow to rapidly melt. This melting, in combination with the frozen/solid ground from the winter months, causes the initial flooding to occur. As mid to late spring arrives, the soil is typically more saturated and cannot handle the heavy downpours. This continues the threat of flooding. Overall, flooding causes millions of dollars in damage every year to homes, businesses, and personal property. Without flood insurance, you run the risk of being personally responsible to remedy the damages.
Be Protected Before a Flood
Most homeowners and renters are unaware that the damage from flooding typically is not covered by your traditional homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Instead, you must purchase a separate flood insurance policy sold through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in order to be covered. The only requirement is that you live in a NFIP-participating community. Currently, more than 22,000 communities across the country participate. Additionally, if you live in a high-risk area, your lender may require you to purchase flood insurance for your home.
Through the NFIP, you can purchase flood insurance to protect your home, condominium, apartment, and nonresidential buildings, including commercial structures. The NFIP allows you to purchase coverage limits up to $250,000 for the building and $100,000 for your personal contents inside the building (e.g. clothing, furniture, washer and dryer, etc.). Commercial structures can be insured to a coverage limit of $500,000 for the building and $500,000 for your contents.
Furthermore, flood insurance is a better option than hoping for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance. When you purchase flood insurance, the money paid out is your money. Under FEMA, the most typical form of disaster assistance is a loan that must be repaid with interest. Additionally, FEMA is only activated after a presidential disaster declaration, though most flooding events do not result in a disaster declaration. Moreover, claims paid by flood insurance may restore your property to its pre-disaster condition, whereas FEMA assistance will not do this. For these reasons, flood insurance is always the better option.
After purchasing flood insurance, take plenty of pictures of your home and property to have on file. In addition, make detailed lists of the personal property you have. These simple steps will assist you in validating your claim with your insurance company if flooding occurs.
Steps to Take After a Flood
If you have flood damage and are uncertain if you are covered by insurance, start by looking at your insurance policy. The next step would be to contact your insurance agent. They will assist you in determining if you are covered for flood damage. Furthermore, if you have damages, it is critical that your insurance agent is immediately aware to begin filing the claim. Be sure to take plenty of pictures of the damages. Also, make a detailed list of all damaged or lost personal property. Do not throw out any damaged property without first notifying your insurance adjuster. The insurance adjuster may want to examine your damaged property to determine if it is salvageable or needs to be replaced.
Be Prepared & Knowledgeable
Flood damage is costly to remedy. Look at your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to see what coverage you have, and consider purchasing flood insurance for your home, apartment, or business. Without this additional coverage, you will likely be responsible for paying the entire cost to clean up the damage from the flooding, with no legal recourse.