Florida Panhandle Flood Victims without Flood Insurance Still Have Options
Watching some of the video clips posted on the Pensacola News Journal website that shows the extensive flood damage in Pensacola, Destin, Ft. Walton Beach and surrounding areas, I was reminded of the thousands of homes flooded in Super Storm Sandy and the insurance claims that ensued. The one common denominator both events share is the large amount of debris piled up in the front yards of neighborhoods. Those piles of personal property, drywall and other interior building components are the tell-tale signs of flood damage. Looking at the homes and buildings from the street or from the air in a lot of cases would not reveal the extent of damage as roofs, windows, and exterior building cladding were still intact.
If not for the piles of debris in the front yards, one would never know the extent of disaster that has visited this area. I suspect a lot of homeowners did not have flood insurance and as reported, areas that flooded had never flooded before. So flood insurance was not considered or even required.
Homeowners should check their policy for sewer backup coverage. In Super Storm Sandy all of the claims we handled for our clients were given coverage for this peril. Clearly with the flood water preventing sewer systems from draining, the flood waters will have pushed the sewer water back into the buildings before the flood waters entered the structures. Policies should be carefully read and limits noted for sewer backup. Some of our New York clients with top shelf insurance companies had some significant policy limits for this peril that was in addition to the limits for flood coverage. Others had smaller limits in their policy, but anything helps. I am sure many homeowners are being told that this was a flood and if they lack flood insurance coverage are out of luck. Don’t take that as a final answer. Report a sewer backup loss if the facts warrant it.
And remember, if no coverage can be found, you still need to document your loss including taking photos of the damaged and destroyed property. Speak with your tax advisor, as you may find some relief based on uninsured casualty loss. The rules can be complex and you will need to maintain proof and records of your loss. You may have a tax deduction to help offset this costly catastrophe.