"Lost my home in the Tubbs fire in Sonoma County. Your help and support has been invaluable. Thank you."...
by Amy Bach
If your property has been damaged due to a heavy rain and high winds, it can be tricky to collect insurance benefits to pay for repairs.
Home and renters policies exclude some but not all types of water damage. "Flood" damage (the policy should define what the insurer considers a "flood") and earth movement are excluded. Water damage from sewers and drains that back up may or may not be covered, depending on the wording in the specific home/renters policy. If wind or falling trees cause damage to pipes or contribute to water getting into a dwelling, there may be coverage under a home/renters policy.
Unless your property is located in an official flood zone, you probably don't have flood insurance. Flood insurance policies cover damage from inundation and mudflow with a number of limitations and exclusions. For more information, visit our Claim Help Library.
What to do?
Before and during a severe storm:
- If you live on or at the foot of a hillside, sandbags should be in place around the perimeter of your home
- Place rolled up towels along the inside of exterior doors to prevent water from getting in
- Do your best to keep your gutters clear but stay safe throughout the storm
- Move valuables and items up from lower levels and away from doors and windows
- Find a copy of your insurance policy and check the wording on water damage and the amount of your deductible
- Use UP's free home inventory app to photo document key features of your home that could be damaged (windows, siding, roof and interior) and your possessions.
After the storm:
- If your home was damaged, focus on creating a scope of everything that was damaged and what it will cost to repair or replace
- To keep a clean record and avoid premium increases, don't file a claim until you review your policy and you think your loss will exceed your deductible and be covered.
- If the damage was sudden and accidental and triggered by the storm, don't accept a claim denial argument from your insurer or agent that it was due to faulty construction or maintenance. The insurer cashed your premium checks and insured your property "as is".
- If you file a claim and your insurer rejects it, make sure you get a clear and detailed explanation of their position. Poke around our library for suggestions on Speaking UP. Claim and coverage disputes are rarely as clear cut as your insurer makes them out to be.
- The answer to whether your town or city will pay to repair flooding damage to your home is..."it depends."
About The Blogger
Amy Bach has been a professional advocate for insurance policyholders since 1984 and an attorney since 1989. She co-founded United Policyholders in 1991 and serves as the organization's Executive Director and primary spokesperson; shaping and overseeing the Roadmap to Recovery™, Roadmap to Preparedness, and Advocacy and Action programs. She is a nationally recognized expert on insurance claim and legal matters; frequently interviewed in print and broadcast media, and the author of numerous publications including "The Disaster Recovery Handbook", "WISE UP: The Savvy Consumer's Guide to Buying Insurance" and consumer tips and guides in the UP Claim Help Library. Recognized by Money Magazine as a Money Hero, Bach is in her eighth consecutive term as an official consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and is a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance.