Does my home insurance cover flooding?

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Rain falls near downtown Fort Worth on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, after 38 days of no measurable precipitation.

Rain falls near downtown Fort Worth on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, after 38 days of no measurable precipitation.

amccoy@star-telegram.com

With more than 9 inches of rain falling Monday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, causing flooding in several neighborhoods, many residents are still sifting through the damage.

Floods can be costly. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a single inch of water can cost up to $25,000 in repairs.

The National Weather Service reported Monday that the 9.19 inches of rain recorded at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was the second wettest 24-hour period on record. Rainfall totals from Sunday night through Monday were just 0.38 inches behind the wettest 24-hour period recorded in 1932 at 9.57 inches.

In the United States alone, floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.

The question many residents have is what will my insurance cover? Here are some things to consider:

What should I know about buying flood insurance?

Flood insurance can be purchased from private companies or through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program.

When it comes to buying flood insurance, the Better Business Bureau has outlined some tips whether you’re buying from a private company or government carriers:

  • Know your region — To find out if the area you live or work in has a high risk of flooding, check FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center. You may need to purchase flood insurance if you live in a high risk area.
  • Talk to your insurance agent — Start by checking with your insurance company to see if they offer flood insurance. Home insurance policies generally do not cover flood damage.
  • Find a flood insurance provider — To find a provider through the National Flood Insurance Program, visit their website. Or you can find a supplier through the BBB.
  • Buy flood insurance — Discuss policies with an insurance agent before buying to ensure you select the right amount of coverage. Flood insurance generally covers damage caused by rising groundwater, while home insurance generally covers water damage caused by a broken pipe or a leaky roof.
  • Make an inventory – Take inventory of household valuables, document them with photos and videos for future claim.
  • Store important documents — Documents such as passports, birth certificates, medical records and property deeds should be kept in a waterproof container or safe.
  • Understanding Complaint Filing — When filing a claim, first report the flood damage to an insurance agent. Document the damage before beginning the cleanup. Finally, meet with an adjuster and receive payment.
  • Work with the insurance company on the damage — If you have to deal with flood damage or subsequent mold issues, talk to your insurance agent for recommendations on reliable water damage restoration companies. Find out what kind of services your policy provides.

What does flood insurance cover?

A National Flood Insurance Program policy covers direct physical loss to structures and property. The NFIP offers two types of coverage — building and content.

Building coverage includes:

  • Electrical and plumbing systems, as well as furnaces and water heaters.
  • Refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers.
  • Permanently installed carpeting, cabinets, paneling and bookcases.
  • Window blinds, foundation walls, anchor systems and stairs.
  • Detached garages, fuel tanks, well water tanks and pumps and solar power equipment.

Content coverage with NFIP includes:

  • Personal effects such as clothing, furniture and electronic equipment.
  • Curtains, washer, dryer and microwave oven.
  • Portable air conditioners and widows.
  • Carpet not included in building coverage, such as area rugs on wood floors.
  • Valuable items such as original artwork and furs up to $2,500.

Here’s what’s not covered by both NFIP plans:

  • Temporary accommodation and additional living expenses incurred while the building is being repaired or if the accommodation is habitable.
  • Property outside of an insured building such as landscaping, wells, septic system, decks and patios, fences, dikes, spas and swimming pools.
  • Any financial loss caused by business interruption.
  • Currency, precious metals, stock certificates and other valuable documents.
  • Cars and most automotive vehicles, including their parts.
  • Personal property kept in basements.

What should I know about filing an insurance claim?

In the event of flooding or groundwater damage, it’s time to file with your insurance provider. Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau when it comes to filing a claim:

  • Contact the insurance company immediately — Getting in touch early helps start the claims process and may also mean you qualify for loss of use benefits. It also allows you to be reimbursed for hotel, food and other living expenses while away from home. Document all conversations with the insurance company or adjuster and get all promises of reimbursement in writing.
  • Beware of contractors claiming to be insurance specialists — Be sure to research your contractor thoroughly before allowing them to deal with your insurance company. Request approval for repairs.
  • Thoroughly document the damage — Take photos and videos of goods and possessions, going from room to room and make a detailed account.
  • Make temporary repairs to limit further damage — You could be liable for additional damage to your home or business after a storm. Barricading broken windows or throwing a tarp over a leaky roof can help limit further damage. Beware of contractors who may try to offer these services for a fee.
  • Do not make any permanent repairs until approved by the insurance company — Make sure your insurance company will reimburse you for the cost of the repair. The insurance company may not reimburse you in full if repairs are carried out without prior authorization.
  • Don’t hand an insurance check to a contractor for repairs before work begins — Never give more than a third of the price of the job up front and make sure your insurance company has approved all repairs before releasing final payment to the contractor.
  • You may be entitled to additional help if insurance does not cover all losses — Check with FEMA for more information and to see if you qualify.

What should I know about choosing a company for repairs or cleaning?

Whenever there is a disastrous weather event, unscrupulous contractors will come out of the woodwork to offer their services. The Better Business Bureau has some tips for choosing a business:

  • Work with your insurance company — Ask your insurance agent to recommend a reliable and reputable water damage repair company. Find out what your insurance policy covers and how to file a claim.
  • Try to mitigate other damage – Dry and disinfect affected areas as soon as possible to help prevent mold growth. For damp rugs or carpets, try running fans and dehumidifiers.
  • Check the company’s history with the BBB — You can view the company’s complaint history and other factors on the BBB website.
  • Verify company license — Confirm that the contractor is properly licensed, insured and registered for the work they will be performing. For example, vacuuming water and drying out a room may not require a license, but ripping out cabinets or a wall may require one.
  • Make sure the company has experience in mold cleanup — Ask for references and contact them for more information about the company’s work with mold.
  • Obtain at least three offers — Don’t hire the first company that contacts you or gives you the lowest offer. Evaluate the services and offers of at least three companies before making a decision.
  • Understanding the Assignment of Contracts of Benefits — Be sure to research the contractor thoroughly before allowing them to deal with your insurance company. Request approval for repairs.
  • Beware of contractors who go door to door using scare tactics — Obtain a contract that specifies the work to be done, a breakdown of labor and material prices, and an agreed upon schedule. Never feel pressured to sign on the spot and research at least three offers before making a decision.
  • Beware of rental scams — If you are moved from your home, beware of rental scams where a property’s photo and description are posted online and ask for a first month’s rent.

This story was originally published August 23, 2022 2:34 p.m.

Brayden Garcia is a duty reporter at the Star-Telegram. He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2020, where he worked at the student newspaper The Shorthorn. He previously worked for the Dallas Morning News on education.

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