SURVIVING THE FLOOD OF 2017 Print

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Can I claim my water damage on my homeowner’s insurance?



ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



The area was saturated with rain late last week and with the damage that came with it, many people are now thinking about repairs and restoration. Already, some of the insurance agents in town have received calls regarding what could be done. 

“I’ve actually had two different types of claims – some from customers who didn’t know or understand their policy slightly upset because their house wasn’t covered, but the majority of customers who called said ‘I understand I don’t have flood coverage, I just wanted to call and verify if it’s covered,’” Shelter Insurance Agent Jose Lara said. “I don’t know if it’s been through public service announcements or advertisements or just knowledge, that it’s advised to get the extra flood insurance for flooding.”

“I would say probably around 100 or 150, it’s been a lot, and like I said earlier, education is important. I’ve put a few things on Facebook, which triggered some of those calls,” American Family Insurance Agent Tammy Lenear added. “As far as claims, I would say we’ve had about 50 to 70 claims filed, but they’ve all been denied due to lack of flood coverage, which is why the county has issued a proclamation to try and get this designated as a disaster area.”

Flood insurance is not mandatory unless a client lives in a flood zone, according to Lenear, and Lara added as of now, flood insurance must still be purchased separately. 

“First of all, flood insurance is not mandatory unless you live in a flood zone, so it’s not required,” Lenear said. “I myself don’t have a flood policy, and a good percentage out there don’t have a flood policy unless they live in a flood zone because Liberal shouldn’t be receiving that amount of rain so fast like what happened last week. It’s something we always educate our clients on in the beginning that water is a covered peril with American Family Insurance, but flood is not a covered peril for any insurance corporation but FEMA, which is an organization associated with the government. We do educate our clients of flood coverage being available for them, but they’re thinking ‘Is it really going to flood in Liberal? Do I need it since I’m not in a flood zone?’ so they opt out of purchasing it. They can purchase it even if they’re not in a flood zone, but like I said, it’s not mandatory unless you do.”

“The first thing is the only agency that sells flood insurance is through FEMA still, so it’s a government-sponsored program. It’s not in the private sector yet,” Lara added. 

And even though flood insurance is not mandatory in Liberal, both Lara and Lenear said it would still be a good idea to at least consider purchasing the extra coverage. 

“The first thing I’d say is talk to your agent and get a quote, see if it’s in a range you would find acceptable,” Lara said. “And after this week, people should have an idea of if their yard can handle heavy rains because while you may not be in the flood plain, your yard still might not be able to drain fast enough. So if we have a quick rain like what happened last week, it can still flood and you would need coverage.”

“I would say make sure they’re educated by their agent, that they understand the definition of flood is,” Lenear added. “Learn about some options, get some quotes, and make a decision of if it’s right for you. Claims are being denied by the insurance corporations, and that’s because it was a flood and these clients didn’t have flood coverage. That’s why there’s a lot of devastation in the community right now because all these claims are being denied. Now if you’re talking about water in general when someone files a claim with American Family Insurance, everything besides flood, it’s very important they take action to get the water out and get that all taken care of as fast as they can.”

And along with having the extra coverage, both Lenear and Lara said there are some precautions homeowners can take should a heavy rain/flood situation happen again, and both also encouraged insurance customers to build good relationships with their agents. 

“One of my customers was telling me he had carpet in the basement and a while back there was a flood. After that, he put epoxy down while installing new carpet,” Lara said. “So if you know your basement is prone to leaking and you can’t find the issue or seal the leaks (and even with that water could still make its way through), my advice would be either spend a lot of money to completely redo your foundation or remodel the basement to withstand water. Sadly, those are really the only two options for people because most people don’t realize what the problem is until their basement’s got two feet of water. My aunt, she got four feet of water in her basement, and that’s always an issue. With my basement, the bottoms of the seals on my windows are out, and I had a steady stream of water coming in that way. It didn’t flood, but it’s still al possibility and something I need to address.”

“Get ahold of a restoration company because there are certain chemicals that wouldn’t work for the situation,” Lenear added. “So definitely get ahold of one of those companies so you can get the proper dehumidifiers, the proper fans and chemicals to try and save the walls and carpet, if that’s possible. When you have rain like what we had last week, it’s a little hard to set up anything. There’s some measure you can take that will help with normal rain, like putting concrete footers all around the foundation, which allows the water to run downward, there’s plastic shutters people can put over basement windows that can help.”