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Do you have the right home insurance to protect your family next time New York experiences a major flood?


After September’s torrential rains that flooded Nassau County and created havoc in New York City, you may be wondering if you have the right insurance plan to protect your home if it was impacted by a future storm.

During that storm in September, it rained for hours, leading to widespread flooding which shut down subways, roadways and airports. In addition, across the region, the intense amount of rain flooded homes and apartments.

“When we get a rain like that, and as people saw in many areas, the storm drains became overwhelmed, they couldn’t handle all the water, so everything got backed up. Many areas which also have lower elevation points collected well over a foot or two of water as well. As a result, many homeowners experienced damage to their homes,” said Rockville Centre Insurance Agent, Alex Anderson. 

Even if you’re not in a flood zone, a storm like September’s could impact your home. Anderson said if you have a slop sink or toilet in your basement — or really anything that’s connected to a sewage line — you’re also at risk of a possible sewage back-up.

What kind of coverage should I have?

Knowing what you may or may not be covered for on your home insurance policy is critical because your policy is likely not going to cover everything. 

“Reviewing your policy with your agent can be helpful for you to understand where there may be a gap or even a short fall on some of your coverage before something happens,” Anderson said. “That’s a good starting point, understanding what you have and where your other exposures are.”

For example, if surface water flows in from the outside of your home, through something like a window well, that’s usually going to be a common exclusion for home insurance, Anderson said.

Also water that might seep in after there’s pressure on the outside of a foundation that’s below ground, you also likely wouldn’t be covered.

Anderson said there are multiple definitions of flood insurance that FEMA acknowledges. If water inundated your property through a runoff from heavy rainwater, for example, a flood insurance policy could cover some of the damage to your home.

Anderson did note that the biggest reason why people get flood insurance is because their mortgage company requires it for them to buy the house. If you are not in a determined flood zone, and your mortgage doesn’t make it a requirement then people are more apt to think there is no risk. “That is not always the case as we see every so often around here,” Anderson said. “Additionally, coverage outside of a flood zone can be secured for a much lower premium.”

If you happen to carry flood insurance and have damage to your finished basement, contact your company to submit a claim and have them evaluate if you have coverage. 

From a homeowner’s insurance coverage standpoint — surface water and seepage aside —  if you have a backup of your sewer system or a drain, your home insurance policies could very well cover those sorts of issues.

“It's not included as a standard coverage because it doesn't originate from inside the house,” Anderson said. “However, you can add it on as a rider with various what we would call ‘sub-limits,’ meaning that there is a set maximum amount of coverage with its own deductible.”

But if you experience an issue with water, the most important thing to do is to contact your insurance company and a mitigation company if you cannot get the water cleaned out yourself.

{Read: See our prior article regarding basement water}

The first thing to ask yourself is where is the water coming from?

“If you're unsure of where the water originated from, let your insurance company or even mitigation company investigate,” Anderson said.

“If the water's originating from inside the house, generally any coverage would fall under your home insurance,” Anderson said.  “If you have a sewer backup, initially you might say that water is coming from in the house. But it didn't technically originate from inside the house because it came from the sewer line, which is backed up from the main line. So you have to know where it’s truly coming from.”

Can you prevent water issues?

If there's water that's below the ground and it seeps through your foundation, you’re probably not going to know about it until that happens, and maybe not even for a period of time after it starts.

If you have water issues stemming from outside, speak with a licensed contractor or engineer. 

On one end of the cost spectrum, you may see someone having their foundation sealed from the outside to address their water issues.

On the other, lower, end of the cost spectrum, it could be something as simple as checking the grading of the soil around your house to make sure it is properly sloping away from the home. A less costly step could be ensuring your window wells are draining properly and installing window well covers, which can be effective if there is heavy rain and a runoff gets into them.

“Say I have a window well that doesn’t drain well, no cover, and poor sloping around the house. It could put you in a position that a heavy, heavy downpour could create a runoff into it and potentially your home.”

Granted, sometimes there really is nothing you can do as you can only mitigate your exposure so much, however some of the small steps can make a big difference, Anderson said when it comes to protecting your home from water.

More advice from Alex Anderson

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