An individual may purchase property insurance in order to protect their property. This type of insurance is called homeowner’s insurance.
Homeowner’s insurance protects from damage to the property or liability for certain events that occur on the property premises. These policies allow property owners to receive monetary compensation for certain costs or damages.
Individual property insurance policy terms will vary according to each policy. Policies may be negotiated in some cases with the insurance dealer.
In the majority of cases, however, the homeowner purchases a set policy that contains standard terms and clauses. Most homeowner’s and property insurance policies cover two main issues, casualties and liability.
Casualty insurance policies cover damage that may be caused to the property, which may include damage that is caused by:
- Natural causes, including floods, earthquakes, etc.;
- Falling branches; and
- Certain man-made causes, for example, sewage damage.
Casualty insurance coverage varies widely depending upon an individual’s geographic location as well as other demographic factors. For example, if a home is located in an area that is prone to flooding, the policy will likely address the issue of flooding.
If, however, other issues are more prevalent, such as wildfires, a policy may cover that issue but not cover flooding. Similarly, the terms of liability insurance coverage will vary according to numerous factors, including:
- The nature of the property;
- The location of the property;
- The types of frequent visitors; and
- Other issues.
When a natural disaster, also referred to as an act of god, destroys an individual’s property, no other landowner can be held liable for the damage that results. Natural disasters may include:
- Tornadoes; and
Property owners can obtain natural disaster insurance to cover damages caused by acts of god. Natural disaster insurance may cover:
- Mold damage;
- Walls and insulation; and
- The cost of a hotel for temporary relocation.
It is important to note that compensation for repair or damage from a natural disaster will only be available if an individual’s homeowner’s insurance policy explicitly covers that type of damage when caused by a sudden or accidental event. The majority of policies exclude, or do not cover, damage that is caused by certain natural disasters, including:
- Earthquakes, landslides, and mudslides;
If an individual’s home is located in a flood plain, their mortgage lender may require them to have flood insurance. If an individual wants this coverage, it is likely available, but it will cost extra as a rider to the homeowner’s insurance policy.
An individual should not assume that they have insurance coverage for any type of natural disaster. Instead, they should review their policy and speak with their insurance agent, broker, or instance company to ensure they have the type of coverage they need and want.
Two of the most common categories of natural disasters include floods and fires. Although fires may be covered by an individual’s homeowner’s policy, floods typically are not.
A flood may occur anywhere, not just in a flood zone. Floods may occur following:
- Heavy rains;
- Hurricanes; and
- Following winter snow thaws.
What Does Flood Insurance Cover?
Flood insurance covers damage that occurs to a building including:
- The foundation;
- Piers; and
- Other support structures.
Flood insurance covers any direct physical loss that is caused by a flood or flood covered erosion, including:
- Flash floods;
- Tidal surges;
- Severe storms; or
Flood insurance policies do not cover damage to structures other than buildings, including:
- Retaining walls;
- Fences; or
- Underground structures.
Other exclusions under flood insurance laws include:
- Driveways; and
Flood insurance provides limited coverage for equipment that is necessary for habitability located beneath the lowest floor, which may include:
- Utility connections;
- Sump pumps;
- Water or fuel tanks;
- Washers or dryers; and
- Air conditioners.
It is important to note that most flood Insurance policies have a 30 day waiting period for coverage.
Is Water Damage Covered by the Flood Insurance Policy?
Flooding, heavy rain, and other events can cause serious damage to an individual’s home. The cost to repair this damage may be in the thousands of dollars.
Flood insurance policies have insuring clauses that may be followed by many exclusions. Therefore, the damage to an individual’s home may appear to be insured but may actually fall under an exception to the policy.
The law may offer some protections against certain types of water damage, depending on the source of the damage as well as whether a homeowner has homeowners’ insurance. Typically, when an individual experiences water damages, they look to their homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, or condominium insurance to cover the cost of repairing the damage.
If an individual submits a claim to their homeowner’s insurance, whether or not their insurance will pay for the damage depends upon the language contained in their insurance policy. There are several types of water damages which may or may not be covered by an individual’s insurance, including:
- Sudden or accidental discharge from pipes or hoses in the home;
- Sewer backup and overflow or water backup;
- Overflow or leaking from a home appliance, e.g. malfunctioning washing machine or dishwasher; and
- Flooding of natural origin after a natural disaster.
In general, certain types of damage caused by a slow leak are not covered by homeowner’s insurance. This may include leaks from a water heater or a slightly cracked pipe or hose leaking from a connected appliance.
In these cases, even if an individual’s homeowner’s policy covers water damage, it may not cover damage that is caused by slow, gradual leaking. Instead, insurance policies often cover damages that are caused by sudden and accidental events.
An individual’s best defense against slow and gradual leaks is proper maintenance and regular inspections of the key components of a home, including:
- The water heater;
- Piping connected to:
- washing machines;
- dryers; and
- The piping and hoses that service the automatic ice maker in a refrigerator;
- Any other appliance or feature that uses water, such as an aquarium, pool or pond;
- The roof;
- The basement for any cracks in the foundation that may allow water to intrude.
Notify the Insurance Company ASAP
Insurance policies have terms and conditions which must be followed. One of the most important duties of the insured is to notify the insurance company immediately after discovering any property damage.
Typically, the process for notification is included in the terms of the policy. If an individual has any issues, questions, or concerns related to their policy, it may be helpful to contact a floor insurance lawyer, even at this stage.
A lawyer can ensure that the notification is proper and assist with any necessary negotiations.
What if the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay or Offers Me Less than My Claim is Worth?
If an individual’s insurance company refuses to pay their claim or offers a lesser amount to settle the claim, the individual may attempt to negotiate. If this does not produce a satisfactory outcome, the individual may contact an attorney to help recover the fair value of the claim.
In addition, the wrongful denial of a claim or offering to settle for less than the insurance company knows the claim is worth may be examples of bad faith. If an individual has a dispute with their insurance company regarding how a clause in the policy is read, the issue may require court intervention.
A court will, in general, interpret any ambiguities in an insurance policy in favor of the insured party and against the insurance company.
Should I Contact an Attorney for My Flood Insurance Claim?
Insurance policies are often complex and confusing. It can be helpful to consult with an insurance law attorney who can review your policy and determine if your losses are covered.
Your attorney can also help ensure that the insurance company treats you fairly. Dealing with an insurance company may be intimidating.
Your attorney can also determine if your insurance company acted in bad faith when handling your claim.