Lately, much of the United States have seen wild swings of severe weather. From the mid 70’s on Saturday to 47 degrees and an inch of rain on Monday, severe weather can wreak havoc on your home. With torrential rains and flash flood in most parts of the Northeast recently, many find themselves asking: my house has suffered water damage, am I covered?
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2017 wasn’t the best year for Houston Texas. Due to the unprecedented rain fall that occurred during Hurricane Harvey, the Barker Reservoir and the Addicks Reservoir—both located off of Highway 6 in Houston—quickly filled to their maximum capacity. In an effort to protect the greater Houston area from experiencing even worse flood inundation, the US Army Corps of Engineers—the federal government entity responsible for management of the reservoirs—intentionally released the flood gates on the reservoirs, causing severe flood inundation to thousands of homes and businesses that had never flooded, were not in a flood zone, and had no reason to expect that level of damage.
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Hurricane Harvey flooding impacted Texas property owners (i) with sufficient flood insurance to cover the loss, (ii) with insufficient flood insurance to cover the loss, and (iii) without flood insurance. This three-part series outlines the differences in the rights of these property owners and the different avenues to recovery. My previous post was Hurricane Harvey FEMA Claims vs. Inverse Condemnation Claims: Do You Know Your Recovery Rights? (Part I), where I discussed one avenue of recovery for property owners with flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. This post focuses on a wholly separate recovery avenue for property owners with or without flood insurance under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
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Beginning on August 9, 2016 and lasting through August 31, 2016, numerous parishes in Southeast Louisiana1 experienced prolonged, torrential rainfall and flooding. By the end of the days-long Great Flood event of 2016, several states were included in disaster declarations due to the same weather system. Though flooding to this extent is usually associated with a hurricane or tropical storm, this one was not. Regardless, flood damage is often covered by a Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) issued through National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) fiscal agents known as Write Your Own (WYO) companies or by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) directly through an NFIP Direct Servicing Agent (Direct). The NFIP is provided under the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, amended (NFIA)2 and the SFIP is regulated under 44 C.F.R. §§ 61 and 62.
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After receiving a Bestwire News Report that indicated a Homeland Security Inspector concluded  that "Write Your Own" Insurance Companies did not overpay flood claims following Hurricane Katrina, I waded through the 48 page report to find out why the Inspector came to that conclusion. As I have said in earlier blog posts, flood adjusters paid and paid and paid some more. They gave every benefit of the doubt to policyholders. In some "slab" cases, they simply reviewed satellite photographs and then paid policy limits. They never went to the loss site.


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Two recurrent issues are keeping policyholders from full recovery following disasters.  First, policyholders are not getting flood insurance even though it is available.  Second, policyholders are not increasing the limits of coverage to reflect the full costs of construction or replacement. They are exposed to the risk of being significantly under-insured.


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If another hurricane the size of Katrina or stronger strikes a metropolitan area this summer or fall, I am certain that we will have a repeat of the litigation and problems associated with Katrina.  On May 8, the United States Senate voted against increasing the role of the National Flood Insurance Program to include coverage for "wind" peril. (See Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Biloxi Sun Herald) The Senators supporting the measure were from the coastal states most effected by hurricanes.  These southern Senators and their constituency are increasingly facing the problem that private property insurance carriers will not sell a policy that covers the perils posed by a hurricane.


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