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Water Damage & Flood Insurance - What's Covered?

Despite the overwhelming media coverage recent hurricanes and severe weather have garnered, a majority of homeowners still do not have adequate flood insurance.  Of the four out of five homeowners who know that a standard homeowner's insurance policy does not cover flood damage, only 14% had a flood insurance policy according to a 2015 poll by the Insurance Information Institute.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) identify flooding as the United States' #1 natural hazard.  FEMA generally classifies properties as either at high risk or moderate-to-low risk of flooding.  When homeowners were asked if they knew for sure which category applies to their home, 51% said "yes" while 43% said "no."  If the homeowner carries a mortgage, their lender may require them to purchase flood insurance, especially if the home is located in a high-risk flood zone.  While FEMA says the average flood policy costs around $600 per year, policies in high-risk areas can run several thousand dollars annually.

So it seems like most homeowners know some of the key facts about flood insurance, but they haven't taken steps to protect their homes.  Water damage repair can be costly, but less upsetting if you have insurance coverage.  It is important to note that in some cases, the cause of water damage plays an important role in whether or not you can claim reimbursement for the water damage restoration.  At ServiceMaster Dynamic Cleaning, we see firsthand the damage floods can do to homes.  It is important for homeowners to:

  • Ensure that they know their home's correct FEMA flood risk designation.
  • Review their homeowner's insurance policy and investigate the cost and availability of a separate flood insurance policy.  It may be cheaper than people expect - the average flood insurance policy costs about $50 per month.
  • Discuss your options with your insurance agent who can provide the most accurate information for your situation.

What Will Your Insurance Policy Cover?

There is often a lot of confusion about what kinds of damage are covered under a home insurance policy.  Floods and resulting water damage can occur at any time.  If you don't have flood insurance, there is no point in filing a claim for water damage restoration services.  However, the circumstances that caused the water damage play an important role in successful insurance claims.  So how do insurance companies process water damage restoration claims?  Here are some examples:

  • Homeowner policies do not cover damages due to a flood or water seeping in from the ground
  • Damage from rain coming in through a hole in the roof or a broken window caused by strong weather is covered
  • Water from a burst pipe due to clogging, freezing or a slow leak over time may be considered a maintenance issue and may not be covered
  • Water leaks from your pool that flood your basement may be covered
  • Water damage from your washing machine or dishwasher overflowing may be termed a maintenance issue and not be covered unless you can prove accidental damage - it broke suddenly
  • Sewer backups are generally not covered by standard policies; there is a special provision for sewers and drains

The best advice is to go through your insurance policy closely to determine what is covered and what is not.  Many insurance policies, including flood insurance, have a deductible which means that you are required to pay a specified percentage of the repair expenses.  And no matter how the water damage happened, it is important to take steps to remedy it.  Never ignore indications of a water problem; try to find and stop the leak.  The longer you wait the worse the damage will get, and chances of saving structure and contents will dwindle.  You also run the risk of mold growth which can lead to health problems from runny noses, coughs, and sinusitis to more serious upper respiratory ailments such as asthma or bronchitis.  Mold also may not be covered, but it needs to be mitigated by a professional company nonetheless. 

Whether you have insurance coverage or not, when faced with damage from floods, leaks, or sewer backups in your home, you need trained water damage restoration services.  At ServiceMaster Dynamic Cleaning we know how to restore the damage and work with your insurance company quickly and efficiently.  If you don't have insurance, we will provide an appropriate, cost-effective solution to the problem.  Call us at 800-865-5157 or click today and let our experience work for you.