Since we are in the hurricane season, now is the time to review your flood insurance policy. Everyone should know your homeowners policy does not cover flood losses.
Only flood policies cover flood losses. The National Flood Insurance Program governs almost all flood insurance policies in the United States regardless of what company issues the policy.
The definition of “flood” includes a little known fact. To be considered a flood, the rising water that causes the damage must cover an area of two or more acres of normally dry land. The definition also includes two or more properties that are damaged by mudflows, overflow of inland or tidal waters, unusual and rapid runoff of surface water and collapse by erosion if on a lake or similar body of waters. The dwelling structure and personal property inside the dwelling is normally covered for flood loss under a flood policy.
Property not covered includes structures that house watercraft, walkways, eroded land, sidewalks, driveways, decks and patios. I recall reviewing a claim where the flood water eroded a front walkway and a set of concrete stairs 13 feet high to the front door of a beautiful home. The stairs were covered but the walkway and the washed out land were excluded on the flood policy. Of course seawalls, docks, bridges and fences are not covered. Good news! Your lawn mower is covered if you use it to maintain your property
Many areas near the coast of Florida require the first floor of a home to be 10 feet to 15 feet above the ground. The supports for this construction are called pilings. Often the homeowner will install “breakaway walls” to enclose the space under the home. This space is often used as a garage. The walls are designed to breakaway and collapse from the surge of rising water moving under the home during a storm. The pilings remain. Some people have installed washing machines, dryers and converted the space to recreation rooms. Use of the space for parking vehicles and building access is OK. Other equipment for the maintenance of the building such as air conditioning units, water heaters, and water softeners are covered. The recreation room items are not covered. The danger of converting the garage area below the first floor to a living area is a possible recalculation of the flood policy premium. This could cause the flood premium to increase several thousand dollars.
If you don’t own a flood policy, get one. Remember there is a 30-day waiting period after you purchase coverage before coverage starts. If you do own a flood policy, contact your agent and review the amount of coverage before the hurricane arrives.
Robert “Bob” Fowinkle, president of the Moore, Fowinkle, & Schroer Agency in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 755-2628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.