Public Adjuster Tips for Handling Your Hurricane Idalia Flood Insurance Claim
We’ve revived a very popular blog for the benefit of Hurricane Idalia property owners on understanding flood where our talented staff of public adjusters share some of the best tips they could think of for handling a flood claim. The following are some tips that hopefully will help folks should they have flood coverage. Remember flood insurance is a separate policy from your standard homeowners insurance and covered under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Private insurers also sell under this program. A standard homeowners policy “will not” cover flood defined as rising water. Standard policies will cover wind driven rain or any moisture coming from above such as roof leaks.
Flood Damage Claim Tips
- Take photographs of all damaged content items including discarded objects, structural damage you intend to claim.
- Make a list of damaged or lost items by the room and include their date of purchase, value, and receipts.
- Take photographs of the water line (standing flood water levels) both inside and outside the residence. Note how long the water remained in the house if possible.
- Make sure the replacement cost includes sales tax and delivery/setup fees for each item. Don’t undervalue your content items.
- Officials may require disposal of damaged items so, if possible, place flooded items outside of the home.
- Reference the Consumer NFIP Handbook and more or more Technical Insurer’s Flood Insurance Manual
Cleaning Up After the Flood
- Help prevent mold by removing wet contents immediately. Saturated carpeting, stuffed furniture, bedding and any other items holding dampness, moisture or water inside the property should be removed – but samples saved.
- Get a written quote from the dry out restoration contractor before they do the work and make sure to get it approved by your insurance carrier.
- Keep notes of your conversations/agreements with adjuster and carrier representatives. Get the company adjuster's e-mail and regular mail as well and document everything in writing. Don't rely on verbal comments from the insurance company. Save important voice mails.
- Walls, floors, doors, closets and shelves should be thoroughly washed and disinfected to help avoid mold.
- Thoroughly dry out the properties’ interior using a portable dehumidifier (rental costs may be covered by flood policy). Your air conditioner can also be used to start the drying process.
- If the walls are damaged, take photographs of the baseboard, then remove it. Knock small holes at floor level in the drywall between the wall studs to permit moisture trapped behind the drywall to seep out and begin drying.
- Have your furnace and hot water heater checked for damage. While they may seem to work, the floodwater may have damaged the internal elements.
Managing the Repair Process
- Most claims should be settled within 30 to 60 days of the filing. Repairs, however will probably take longer than this. Be attentive. Ensure you get a quality job at a fair price.
- For major repairs, get a minimum of three estimates. Don’t hesitate to question the contractors on variations in pricing.
- Make sure all estimates provide work details, offer a fixed price and are signed.
- Never proceed with repairs on the basis of a verbal agreement.
- Ask for state licenses and references and take the time to call them. Natural disasters often attract unqualified contractors looking to work for cash.
But what about those who do not have flood insurance? Are they out of luck? Maybe not, the facts of a loss need to be closely looked at to see if some other insurance coverage may kick in like a standard homeowner’s policy or a business property policy. Remember, when flooding occurs, other events were likely happening at the same time or in close proximity to the rising water. Events like pounding rainwater against homes and buildings, rainwater ponding on roof’s, high winds with flying debris, sewer backups and the list could go on and on depending on the fact issues of each property or the specific geographic location. In fact, one property can have completely different fact issues or patterns of damages than their neighbor next door or other property owners blocks or miles away.
So how does insurance work when there may be a combination of events i.e., different perils that may have caused damage at the same time or in close proximity to each other with some that may be covered and others that may be excluded depending on your insurance policy terms and conditions?
In a scenario with different causes of loss (depending on when and how they impacted the insured property) you may find yourself in the murky waters of legal terms like “concurrent causation”, “anti-concurrent causation”, “efficient proximate cause” and similar terms that have evolved with the expansion of insurance coverages such as all risk coverage as well as exclusions that are written to be exceptions to all risk forms.
My guess is that most insurers will not volunteer to make payments under any other covered loss where flooding caused significant damages. But it does not hurt to press them regarding other possible covered items that may have damaged your property before it was flooded or washed away. Also, remember that if you have a mortgage on your property most lenders have their portfolios insured and there is a good chance your home or business while not covered by a government flood policy, may be covered under your lenders policy. This may benefit you if your lender receives funds to cover their loss and potentially may extinguish or reduce your mortgage obligation to your lender. Again, it does not hurt to ask. Call your lender and ask them if your mortgage is in the pool that insures all the properties, they have loaned money on. If so, file a claim and a proof of loss with your mortgage holder for the amount of your mortgage.
Rebuilding After a Flood
"The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is part of FEMA, requires you to file a document called a Proof of Loss within 60 days of the flood detailing everything you are claiming. FEMA frequently extends the deadline given the severity of the damage. Be on the lookout for that notice. Do not procrastinate however since the sooner you get your claim in the sooner it will be reviewed. We saw many with Ian and Irma claims wait until the last minute and the NFIP can actually deny your claim if you cannot meet their deadline. Property filing the claim is another hurdle. So if you have a large loss or are confused by the process, you may wish to seek the services of a professional public adjuster who is trained and well versed in the process.
It’s not always easy, but the time you take to follow your insurance policy guidelines and ensure your repairs are completed properly, will be well worth it in the long run. While you can’t control when a flood will occur, you can control how well you recover. Keeping accurate records, document everything, in writing and with photos, keep all receipts and itemized lists.
If you have questions regarding Hurricane Idalia flood or water related property insurance claims visit our website or contact us to submit a question to one of our public adjuster insurance claim experts.