Floodplains Outside Your Front Door

Unfortunately, for many homeowners, the answer they receive from their agent or broker will be “No, you don’t have flood insurance. You’re three and one-half miles from the nearest coastline. And if you recall we discussed adding flood insurance coverage to your insurance portfolio and you refused to spend money on a flood insurance policy when you lived in what you considered a very safe flood zone.”

Floodplains in Bedford-Stuyvesant? Bushwick? Brownsville? Park Slope? Fort Greene / Clinton Hill? Carroll Gardens? Getouttahere!

Floodplains are everywhere?

Who knew?

Picture this. It’s another beautiful day in the wonderful city of Brooklyn, New York. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and that annoying depression in the middle of the street halfway down the block (which happens to be right in front of your house), suddenly erupts into the most glorious of geysers. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water burst into the air,  land on the street and your sidewalk, and begins to pour into the first floor, garden level, and basement of your beautiful home.

Well, your formerly beautiful home. I mean, you can still use the upper floors.

You hope.

Strange how you never noticed your block is one of three forming a shallow valley. No matter which point you turn to on the compass, you realize adjoining streets and avenues all slope down to where you stand. In fact, it reminds you of the pictures you’ve seen of floodplains around the country. So that geyser spewing tens of thousands of gallons of water each minute from a broken underground water main, is filling up yours and the surrounding blocks as though they were one huge swimming pool.

And the water is getting deeper by the minute.

You suddenly realize what floodplains are, and your existence in one.

Thank Goodness For City Services

One real positive about living in New York City is how quickly the Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP), reaches your block and shuts off the main which gave life to the geyser, just an hour or two. Once they shut the water off, they set about pumping out the water which collected underground. After that they’ll invite each local utility with underground pipes, tubes and wires in the general vicinity of the water main break to come and check their equipment, making any necessary repairs.

Once this and other work, including repairs to the water main, are completed, the giant crater in the street is repaired, the water service restored, and all will be well with the world again.

Well, almost. You see, several major problems remain.

Property Owner, We Have A Problem

As the water poured into your home, you quickly called your homeowners insurance company to report the claim, only to learn your loss isn’t covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

Flood, as your insurance company’s customer service representative explained, is not covered by the typical homeowners insurance policy. This is clearly discussed in the Exclusions section of each homeowners insurance policy which reads,

“WATER DAMAGE, MEANING:

a.    Flood, surface water, waves, wave wash, tidal water, overflow of a body of water, or spray from any of these, whether or not a result of precipitation; or driven by wind … “

So, even though your property located miles from the coast, and you are not in a high-risk flood zone, you suffered a loss caused by a flood.

Your basement is a disaster. You need to rip out and replace floors, ceilings and walls, and replace your hot water heater and boiler and the freezer. Where will you find the money going to come from for all of these unexpected expenses?

The customer service representative asks you a frightening question. “You don’t have a flood insurance policy with our company. Do you have a flood insurance policy with any other company?”

Will You Get Good News or Bad News?

Now comes the moment of truth. You call your insurance agent to see if you have a flood insurance policy.

Unfortunately, for many homeowners, the answer they receive from their agent or broker will be “No, you don’t have flood insurance. You’re three and one-half miles from the nearest coastline. And if you recall we discussed adding flood insurance coverage to your insurance portfolio and you refused to spend money on a flood insurance policy when you lived in what you considered a very safe flood zone.”

If you think this is wrong, look at the situation in Baton Rouge, where they recently suffered heavy rainstorms which lead to wide-spread flooding. In Baton Rouge and its surrounds, some 82% of the houses suffering flood damage lacked flood insurance.

To make matters worse, some 7,000 plus businesses in the affected area suffered severe flood damage, causing them to at least temporarily, close their doors.

Over 73,000 employees are now unemployed until the affected businesses can secure bank and federal loans to reopen. If they ever reopen.

And some 80% percent of the affected homes and businesses are located in “X” flood zones, the zone where you should only have to worry about floods every 500 years.

Climate Change, Anyone?

This and other past and future flooding events prove there is a new model of what is a “safe” flood zone. Here’s a hint: There are none.

New construction which places concrete and macadam on what was permeable ground, changes the very nature of a community, increasing the flood risk.

Aging infrastructure in the shape of bad roads places more stress on underground water pipes, which themselves are in serious need of replacement, causing more and larger water main breaks.

For properties closer the shore, rising sea levels, and a warmer Atlantic Ocean create hurricanes packing increasingly greater destructive power, resulting in more damage to sandy beaches and dunes, and the homes they were designed to protect.

And the hurricane season, which is ‘supposed’ to only run from the first of June until the first of November, seems to start earlier, and end later, each year.

So please take this simple bit of advice: “Hurricane Season” is no longer just a season, it is a year-round event.

Flood zones are just lines on a piece of paper, and water is no respecter of lines on a piece of paper.

We are all at risk from the danger of flooding, and the rebuilding costs which follow.

Stay dry.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is an independent insurance agent and broker based in Brooklyn, NY. Call him today at 718-783-2722 to make an appointment for your personal insurance review of your home, auto, flood, renters, coop, condo, life and disability insurance policies.

You can also reach Eustace with an email to Eustace@insuremeeg.com.

Your Duties After A Loss | Brooklyn Covered

If your policy includes coverage for additional living expenses (and if it doesn’t, go out today and buy a policy with this important coverage), you must again keep accurate records of your expenses for housing, food, and transportation.

Whether you rent or own your home, your insurance policy, in the Conditions section, lists your duties after a loss. Should you fail to comply with the duties which follow, your insurance company could deny you coverage.

  1. You must immediately notify your Broker, Agent, or your insurance company’s claims department of how, when and where the loss happened. Make sure to include the names, addresses and contact information of any witnesses and other injured parties.
  2. Notify the local authorities.
  3. You must protect the property from further loss or damage. This is where many people endanger their full indemnification after a covered loss. For example, if your roof has suffered damage, take as many photos as possible. Then, make reasonable and necessary repairs to prevent further damage. When this is done, take more pictures.
  4. Keep an accurate record of the expenses you incur to protect the property from further damage.
  5. If your home suffered water damage when the roof was compromised, make an inventory of the damaged property before you toss things out on the sidewalk, for example. Your inventory should include describe each item, and it’s cost. Again, take as many pictures as possible to prove your loss. Original receipts, and/or instruction manuals, are a terrific source of proof of ownership. I always tell my clients to prepare a complete Personal Home Inventory using a Travelers Insurance brochure as a guide. Your work at preparing a claim will go a lot faster and easier when you already have a prepared inventory.
  6. If your policy includes coverage for additional living expenses (and if it doesn’t, go out today and buy a policy with this important coverage), you must again keep accurate records of your expenses for housing, food, and transportation.
  7. Remember, you will be required to sign a sworn statement about all the damages and costs you’ve incurred. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to inflate your loss and expense amounts. These are acts of fraud, and your company could refuse to provide coverage for any insured engaged in these acts.

Suffering a loss is tough, but you can make your recovery easier by following these tips.

Eustace L. Greaves Jr., LUTCF is a New York State licensed independent insurance agent and broker. To get a copy of the Personal Home Inventory Brochure, send Eustace an email to eustace@insuremeeg.com. Or, stop by his office at 651 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11238, for a hard copy. Just give him a call at 718-783-2722 so he can tidy up the office before you stop by