Insurance column: Do I have to file a flood claim?

agregory@deschampsgregory.com.July 30, 2009 

Chowderhead Charlie decided to do his Tool Man Taylor imitation and fix the leaking pipe under the sink, which his loving spouse has been complaining about for the past two years. After careful analysis, Charlie decides to re-plumb. After all, he’s an expert with 10 minutes experience. Sure enough, big Charlie discovered he didn’t have the right parts and attempts to force-fit the pvc pipe. He pulls and bends as best he can, and discovers the hard way that pvc pipe will tolerate only so much. I sure wouldn’t do this! Would you do this?

Minutes later, loving spouse comes home from the store and walks into her home with 2 inches of water, everywhere. Carpet, hard wood floors and even the walls are soaked. Chowderhead Charlie has now been promoted to moron of the century, qualifying him for an extended stay elsewhere while his home is dried and repaired.

This actually happened to a customer of mine. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and insult our governor. When I received the frantic call, all I heard was that the house was flooded. Makes sense when describing the incident. But when it comes to insurance, is this a flood claim? Nope. This claim was covered by his homeowners policy, not his flood policy. This was “water damage” due to an accidental breaking of the pipe he was working on. The damage, clean-up and restoration totaled more than $30,000 when it was all over.

What’s a flood then? Let’s keep it simple. It’s rising water from the outside, coming in. It can come from the ocean, a lake, pond, a river or even from the street when it rains too much. It’s not from the 2 inches of water from a broken pipe or even from rain when the roof is blown off during a hurricane. In the hurricane example, the cause of damage originates from the wind that blew the roof off.

Another customer of mine suffered an interesting flood claim, and wasn’t located in a flood zone. The home was constructed in the mid-1980s on 5 acres. Newer homes surrounding our victim were constructed in the 1990s, but built to higher elevation. He found out the hard way, courtesy of Hurricane Charley, when his home became the neighborhood retention pond due to the new construction surrounding his home. Flood damage was extensive.

For those of you who do not live in a flood zone, don’t use the “zone” as the measuring stick to warrant protection or not. Protection outside the zones is available and for much, much lower in premiums than for those living within the zones. It’s almost a no-brainer.

Questions? Call your agent and discuss. This part’s free after all. Want to share a similar experience? Send me an e-mail. I would love to hear from you.

Andy Gregory, co-owner and president of Des Champs & Gregory Inc., with offices in Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, can be reached at (941) 748-1812.

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