North Texas is no stranger to severe weather. Read on for information about flood insurance and steps consumers can take to prepare.
“I DIDN’T THINK IT WAS GOING TO STOP”
When more than nine inches of rain fell in just 24 hours in North Texas last August, Sheniqua Shannon watched as some of it swept into her home.
“You could see this dark, dirty water. When I saw it, I’m like, oh my gosh, it’s coming in. It just slipped right on in here through the crack of the door,” recalled Shannon. “It was pretty scary because I didn’t think it was going to stop.”
Shannon said the water caused thousands of dollars in damage. Though she had homeowners insurance, none of it was covered.
“I basically was told from the insurance company, if it’s raining and it’s coming from outside, it’s not covered,” explained Shannon. “No way, no how.”
Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Consumers would have to purchase separate insurance, typically from the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA.
In some places, considered high-risk, flood insurance may be required by the mortgage lender. Though, flooding could happen anywhere.
On average, around 40 percent of NFIP claims come from outside high-risk flood zones. For example, a FEMA flood map shows Shannon’s home in Desoto is in a “minimal flood hazard” area.
“At no time, will you find anywhere on those maps that this area will not flood. There’s always a risk,” said Gilbert Giron, regional flood insurance liaison with FEMA Region 6 – which includes Texas.
Gilbert explained consumers without flood insurance can’t always fall back on federal disaster help. The president would have to declare a disaster and, even then, individual assistance would be limited.
“A lot of people are under the misconception that FEMA will come in and make you whole again,” said Giron. “Well, FEMA will come in and give you disaster assistance. Right now, that disaster assistance average for Hurricane Harvey was about $4,400, give or take. The average flood insurance claim was $115,000.”
To start the search for flood insurance, consumers can, first, check with their current provider about buying a flood policy. Then, search floodsmart.gov.
Doug Heller, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America explains the yearly cost for homeowners can start at several hundred dollars.
“There are going to be communities which are much higher risk that are going to have higher prices. But, that’s the ballpark that you might expect in the $600 to $700, up to $1,400 to $1,500 range.”
Keep in mind, most policies have a 30-day waiting period before kicking in. Currently, the Texas Department of Insurance tells NBC 5 Responds it estimates no more than 12 percent of Texans have flood insurance.
“I hear too often from people who bought their homeowners insurance, paid every month, every year and thought they were covered when a disaster would strike,” said Heller. “When it’s a flood that came through, did the damage to their home and they ended up with no coverage, having to pay out of pocket, it’s just devastating.”
NAVIGATING CLAIMS AFTER A STORM
Whether it’s flooding, hail or tornados, if you ever have to file a claim, consumers should make the call quickly.
“You don’t want the insurance company to say that you’ve delayed, they didn’t have an opportunity to inspect the property and now all these other things have happened to the property, so we’re not going to pay for it,” said Ware Wendell, executive director of Texas Watch.
Wendell said consumers should document communication.
“If you’re emailing them, texting them, whatever you’re doing, however, you’re communicating with the insurance company, keep a separate written log so you can keep that straight. If they end up denying your claim wrongfully, that’s an important record for you to have,” said Wendell.
You already know to take photos and videos of any damage and save receipts for emergency repairs or other expenses – like a hotel. Wendell said consumers should also save evidence of the damage. That may be a section of pipe that burst in a freeze or a piece of carpet damaged when the rain came in through a hole in the roof. Your insurance company may ask to inspect it.
Though some claims may be handled virtually, if an adjustor comes out, take note of who they work for. In some disasters, companies may need to bring in extra help.
“If they’re an outside adjuster, ask them, who is your in-house contact with the insurance company? That’s going to be the decision maker on your claim,” said Wendell.
TAKE A HOME INVENTORY
Here’s a step consumers can take to stay prepared in case of a future disaster. All you would need is your smartphone and about 30 minutes to take a home inventory. The inventory helps document the condition of your home and the contents inside.
You can walk through your home, open drawers and closets. Record videos and snap photos, taking care to capture the model and serial numbers of valuable items.
Save the inventory to the cloud or email yourself for safekeeping.
Do this regularly, every time you move and when you make a big purchase for the home.
The TDI has a checklist to help you get started.
There are free apps online. Your insurance company may offer a home inventory checklist too.
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Alice J. Roden started working for Trending Insurance News at the end of 2021. Alice grew up in Salt Lake City, UT. A writer with a vast insurance industry background Alice has help with several of the biggest insurance companies. Before joining Trending Insurance News, Alice briefly worked as a freelance journalist for several radio stations. She covers home, renters and other property insurance stories.