The hurricane and tropical storm Eta caused intense flooding with 13 inches of precipitation and storm surge along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Eta also caused rapid flooding, road closures and water rescues as it moved across the state into the Carolinas. I know some of the people who have experienced flooding in their homes on Davis Island, Florida, where I compete with sailboats in my spare time.
It is important for policyholders to be able to distinguish between coverage for insured property under a homeowner's insurance and coverage for insured property under a flood insurance issued by the National Flood Insurance Program ("NFIP"). Homeowners and business owners affected by floods need to understand what may and may not be covered by a flood policy and the strict deadlines applied by the NFIP.
First and foremost. Know the flood zone you live in and read your policy. This leads you to the basic coverage that your home receives after a flood loss. Many homeowners are surprised to find that flood damage to structure or contents below the lowest raised floor may not be covered by flood insurance. Under the housing policy form, homeowners should note the following provision included in the standard flow insurance policy (“SFIP”):
Article III. Property covered
A. COVERAGE A ̵
We insure against direct physical loss through or from flood to:
. . . .
7. The following property covered by coverage A only:
a. Awnings and awnings;
c. Built-in dishwashers;
d. Built-in microwave ovens;
e. Carpet permanently installed over unfinished floors;
f. Central air conditioners;
g. Elevator equipment;
h. Fire sprinkler system;
i. Built-in freezers;
j. Furnaces and heaters;
k. Waste management units;
l. Water heaters, including water heaters;
m. Light fixtures;
n. Outdoor antennas and antennas attached to buildings;
o. Permanently installed cabinets, bookcases, cabinets, panels and wallpaper;
pp. Plumbing fixtures;
q. Pumps and machines for operating pumps;
r. Hobs, ovens and ovens;
p. Refrigerator; and
t. Wall mirrors, permanently installed.
8. Property in a building building under the lowest elevated floor of a raised post-FIRM building located in zones A1-A30, AE, AH, AR, AR / A, AR / AE, AR / AH, AR / A1 -A30, V1-V30, or VE, or in a basement regardless of zone. Coverage is limited to the following:
a. Any of the following, if installed at its operating locations and, if necessary for operation, connected to a power source:
(1) Central air conditioners;
(2) Cisterns and the water in them;
(3) Drywall for walls and ceilings in a basement and the labor cost of nailing it, unfinished and unloaded and not taped, to the framing.
(4) Electrical switch and switch boxes;
(5) Electrical sockets and switches;
(6) Lifts, dumbwaiters and related equipment, with the exception of related equipment installed below the flood level after 30 September 1987;
(7) Fuel tanks and the fuel in them;
(8) Furnaces and water heaters;
(9) Heat pumps;
(10) Non-flammable insulation in a basement;
(11) Pumps and tanks used in solar energy systems;
(12) Stairs and stairs attached to the building, not separated from it by raised walkways.
(13) Swamp pumps;
(14) Water softeners and chemicals in them, water filters and taps installed as an integral part of the plumbing system.
(15) Water tanks and pumps;
(16) Necessary connections for all items in this list; and
(17) Feet, foundations, pillars, pillars, bridges or other foundation walls and anchoring systems required to support a building.
If you have suffered a flood loss, contact your agent or desk adjuster immediately to report a claim. If you do not hear from the adjuster within a few days, then follow up, follow up and follow up again. Document all flood damage by taking photos and videos of the damaged property. Do not throw away damaged objects without first taking several pictures and having the insurance adjuster inspect the damaged property. Be sure to take pictures of the make, model and serial number of damaged electronics or appliances.
There is much more to know about flood insurance claims. But among the most important information to know is to make sure to submit a hard proof of loss within 60 days of the loss date. The Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") often grants an extension of the filing of hard evidence of loss following a named storm event. Unfortunately, FEMA has so far failed to allow an extension to submit evidence of loss after Tropical Storm Eta. It is imperative that homeowners and business owners submit complete and notarized proof of loss to FEMA within 60 days of the date of loss to proceed with a flood loss claim.
If you have not already done so, take a look at Ten Tips for Flood Insurance Claims written by Chip Merlin.
If you have questions regarding your flood insurance and the deadlines strictly enforced under the NFIP, please contact a property insurance staff today.