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Diving into Flood Insurance

As I write this, Hurricane Florence continues to wreak havoc in the Carolinas. Both North and South Carolina continue to be affected by epic flooding as some areas have been hit by 30-40-inches of precipitation. This doesn’t even take into consideration how much more flooding will take place as rivers in the area top their banks. The worst part of the disaster will be the fact that many homes and businesses that will sustain flooding were not in designated flood zones. That means many families and business owners affected by flood waters do not have flood insurance.After dealing with the aftermath of Hurricanes Mathew and Irma during the past two years, I felt it was high time to dive into the ins and outs of flood insurance. 1. Do flood zones matter? – Many people make the mistake of failing to procure flood insurance simply because their homes and businesses aren’t located in a flood zone. Just because your property isn’t located in a designated flood zone, that doesn’t mean your property can’t be flooded. The only thing a flood zone indicates is a higher likelihood of flooding due to the prevalent topography. It’s just a line on a map. It will do you little good to point at the line as a defense should your home become flooded. You can bet there will be many who live in the Carolinas who wish they had purchased flood insurance regardless of which side of the line their home is located. 2. What does flood insurance cover? – To begin with, your homeowner’s insurance policy does NOT cover flood damage. While it may cover some damage caused by rain, if your home is damaged in any way due to rising water, forget about cashing in on your homeowner’s policy to cover the damage. Even if you do have a flood policy, there are two components: property damage and personal possessions Image courtesy of flickr 3. What is covered when it comes to property damage? – As well as covering damage done to a structure, the Federal Flood Insurance Program covers everything from damage done to a property’s electrical and plumbing system, kitchen appliances including the stove, refrigerator and dishwasher, to the water heater, air-conditioner, wall-to-wall carpeting, and even such things as permanently installed cabinets, bookcases and paneling. Additionally, a property policy provides for debris removal directly related to flooding. 4. Personal Possessions– If your flood policy provides coverage tor personal possessions, this includes clothing, furniture and electronic equipment, curtains, portable appliances, throw rugs, and up to $2,500 in valuables such as artwork and furs. 5. What isn’t covered – There are a number of exclusions when it comes to flood policies. If you left behind such valuables as cash, stock certificates, precious metal, or jewelry only to find out that flood waters have swept them away, you’re out of luck. On the structural side there are also a number of exclusions including swimming pool, hot tubs, patios, fences, decks, walkways, wells and septic systems. If your car was parked in your garage or in the driveway when a flood hit, the garage is covered, but your vehicle is not. (Check with your auto insurance carrier to see if comprehensive will help cover flood damage.) The same goes for food spoiled in the fridge. (The fridge yes, the food no) If your trees and bushes were damaged or killed by the flood, this isn’t covered either. While flooding can cause mold damage, this is another exclusion on flood insurance policies. Image courtesy of flickr 6. Temporary Housing – What happens if you come back to find your home uninhabitable? Typically, that means you have to move into temporary housing. Don’t expect to get reimbursed for living expenses caused by flooding. That’s the bad news. The good news is your homeowner’s insurance should cover the cost for temporary housing while your home is being repaired. 7. How long do I have to wait to start the repairs? – If you have a flood insurance policy and you want to be reimbursed for the damage, don’t begin repairs until the claims adjuster has inspected your property. That being said, if you need to shore up your home or plug leaks to keep additional damage from being done to your property, take photos first and keep receipts for all supplies purchased for this purpose. 8. What do I do with soaked items? – After a flood, you could come home to find your furniture, carpeting, clothing, beds & bedding a soaking mess. While you may wish to haul a lot of this ruined stuff to the curb for removal, if you do so before the claims adjuster arrives, you could wind up being denied compensation. If you want to get reimbursed, you need to save any flood-damaged items for the adjuster to inspect. The best course of action would be to either store the items in the garage until the adjuster shows up or pile it up outside. Either way, make sure you take photos of everything you wish to be compensated for, as well as keeping an inventory of all your ruined items. When it comes to carpeting, you don’t have to keep the entire rug, just a 2x2 foot piece for the adjuster to inspect. 9. What else do I need to file a claim? – Bear in mind when it comes to getting reimbursed, the onus is on you to prove an item’s worth. When it comes to damage done to possessions, an adjuster will take into consideration an item’s approximate value based on its age and condition. If you can provide sales receipts for flood damaged items, this will help the adjuster get a more accurate valuation as opposed to having to guess at an item’s value. Coming back to a flood-damaged home is something none of us hope to experience. However, there’s no reason to compound the tragedy by sticking your head in the sand instead of adding flood insurance that can help you keep from getting sucked under financially.

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