Flood insurance claims are different than regular property insurance claims because virtually all flood insurance claims have to follow federal regulations. The vast majority of all flood insurance policies are written through the National Flood Program. Even if a private company known as a Write Your Own (WYO) is listed as the insurer on the first pages of the policy, these insurers are merely participants in the National Flood Program and the ultimate payments do not come from them but out of the United States Treasury.

Here are the steps the National Flood Program Lists should be done first:

1. DETERMINE YOUR FLOOD LOSS AND REPORT YOUR CLAIM: Once it’s deemed safe by local officials, and you ensured the gas and electricity lines have been turned off, examine your property to determine if there is flood damage. If there is, contact your agent or insurance company to start your flood insurance claim and ask for an Advance Payment to help you begin recovering….

2. START CLEANING UP, BUT DOCUMENT YOUR DAMAGE FIRST: Be sure to document your flood loss using photos and videos before you start cleaning up your home. Please keep in mind that as a FEMA flood insurance policyholder, it is your responsibility to minimize the growth and spread of mold as much as possible…..

3. FILE FOR FEMA DISASTER ASSISTANCE: If there is a FEMA Presidential Disaster Declaration, file for FEMA assistance too because you may be eligible for additional funds to help with things like temporary housing….

The National Flood Program does better than most insurance companies explaining in writing how many of these steps should be completed:

STEP 1: Start the Claims Process

….Make sure you have the following information handy when speaking to your agent or insurance company:

  • Policy Declarations page (official document detailing your flood insurance coverage), if available
  • How you can be reached: Telephone phone number or alternate contact number; email address
  • The insured property location
  • The name of any mortgage company(s)

An adjuster should contact you within a few days of starting your claim. If you do not hear from an adjuster, you can contact your insurance agent or company again.

STEP 2: Prepare for your inspection

Before entering, make sure it’s safe to re-enter the building. Take photographs and videos of the damaged property, including items you plan to discard. As much as possible, your photos and videos should document the structural damage; standing floodwater levels (both inside and outside); and damage to appliances, furniture and other items before moving, removing or discarding anything. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage to your home and possessions to prepare your repair estimate.

  • For items like washers and dryers, hot water heaters, kitchen appliances, televisions, and computers, make sure you take a photograph of the make, model, and serial number.
  • For your building items (e.g., flooring), retain samples such as carpet, wallpaper, and drapes for your adjuster’s inspection.
  • Immediately throw away flooded content items that pose a health risk, such as perishable food items, clothing, cushions, pillows, etc. after photographing them.
  • Contact repair services if the building’s electrical, water, or HVAC systems are damaged. It’s important to consult your adjuster or insurance company before you sign any agreement/contract with a cleaning, remediation, or maintenance contractor.

STEP 3: Work with your Adjuster

When your claims adjuster shows up, they should show you their official identification…. They should also provide you with their contact information, such as their name, email, phone number, and the name of their adjusting firm, and their telephone number. When meeting with you, your adjuster should cover the following:

  • An explanation of the NFIP Flood Claims Process.
  • An inspection of your property—-…..measurements and photos {will be taken.]
  • An explanation of what an Advance Payment is and how or if you can get one.
  • Information about how you should present your loss to your insurance company and a discussion about your policy coverage.”

While I have many criticisms of the National Flood Program, these steps are much better instructions than most insurance companies provide. However, a very important point is buried in “tips” which is always asked for by National Flood supervisors if you disagree with them about the amount they determine is owed:

“Keep documents showing how you repaired or replaced flood damaged items, such as receipts, bank statements, and contractor’s invoices. Provide these documents to your adjuster.”

This is actually a requirement in the policy. Indeed, you have to keep these documents as permanent records in case you have a subsequent flood to prove you have fixed or replaced property National Flood has paid for in the past.

You will also need these documents for your replacement cost payment as I indicated in FEMA and NFIP Spell Out What’s Required to Issue Payment on Flood Claims.

Policyholders will be frustrated to find that many areas, such as basements and open-air patios, are not covered under the National Flood Program. Merlin Law Group and North Carolina licensed attorney Beau de Lapouyade wrote about what is covered in Hurricane Florence – What Does My Flood Insurance Policy Cover.

I also listed practical tips about what Florence claimants should do in Your Hurricane Florence Insurance Claim: Tips From an Experienced Policyholder Lawyer For Business and Homeowner Insurance Hurricane Claims. Two years ago I also posted Ten Tips for Flood Insurance Claims.

The bottom line is that National Flood Insurance claims are exacting and are at times like completing tax returns. No wonder, the IRS and FEMA are based on federal regulations requiring all kinds of information filled out line by line and backup. I wish I could tell you something else, but it is better to learn the truth right away.

Thought For The Day

There is no question that the federal government sometimes overdoes it in issuing rules and regulations.
—Dick Durbin

  • shirley heflin

    Dear Chip:

    Great tips for policyholders trying to ascertain what to do following Hurricane Florence. It’s true dealing with FEMA is akin to dealing with the IRS, Social Security and most government agencies. Their response times are slow and they often ask for the same information that you’ve already provided twice. It’s important to keep track of your fax machine receipts, returned receipt notices, etc., showing when you’ve sent something and when the governmental agency received it.

    Respectfully,
    SHIRLEY HEFLIN
    Tampa, FL