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Many Flooded Basements Won't Be Covered By Insurance

By JC Reindl, Detroit Free Press
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 14--For many metro Detroit homeowners with water-soaked basements, the aftermath of this week's flooding has been an unpleasant learning experience in the fine print of their insurance policies.

Not only is flood damage not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies, but most flood insurance doesn't cover damage to objects in basements such TVs, computers, sofas and refrigerators.

Common federally backed flood insurance will extend to a basement's foundation walls and drywall, as well as certain major appliances, including furnaces, air-conditioners, freezers and washers and dryers, according to FEMA guidelines that are posted online.

Flooring may be lost

Federal flood insurance also doesn't cover damage to carpeting, wall paneling or floor tile in basements -- regardless of how the water got in.

"So if you've got a finished basement and floodwater comes into the house and damages your stereos and TVs and furniture -- flood insurance does not cover that," said Roger McDaid of St. Clair Shores-based McDaid & Associates Insurance.

-- Susan Tompor: Tips on auto insurance, flooding, storm damage

Federally backed flood insurance will cover ground floor damage, including objects in living quarters. The insurance will pay cash for non-structural objects based on their present-day value.

"So if you've got a 10-year-old television, you're gonna get what a 10-year-old television is worth today, minus any deductible you have chosen," said David Schein, a flood insurance specialist with FEMA.

Equipment such as furnaces and air-conditioners that are considered structural damage under flood insurance policies are eligible for replacement, regardless of age or current monetary value.

There is better basement coverage available for homeowners willing to pay roughly $50 to $85 a year for an additional policy to go with their homeowners insurance that specifically addresses sewer backups -- the cause of much of this week's flooding.

That extra policy, depending on the fine print, could kick in for objects in a basement such as TVs and carpeting that wouldn't be covered by regular flood insurance.

It's important to note that homeowners who suffered water damage from sewer backups this week but didn't have an additional policy for a backup may not be completely out of luck.

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Towns and cities are inviting residents with flooded basements to file damage claims. Many municipalities have posted instructions on their websites for submitting such claims within the 45-day deadline.

Municipalities can in some instances be responsible for damages that resulted from a backup, particularly if it occurred as a result of faulty infrastructure.

"Every claim will be evaluated on an individual basis," said Warren Mayor Jim Fouts.

What's covered and what's not

-- What's not covered in a basement by common federally backed flood insurance: Damage to the contents of the basement, such as TVs and carpeting.

-- What can be covered in a basement by flood insurance: Damage to the foundational structure and drywall, as well as equipment including furnaces, air-conditioners, freezers and washers and dryers.

-- Federally backed flood insurance will not kick in for basement damages caused by sewer or drain backups.

-- But homeowners with sewer or drain backups are encouraged to file a claim with their municipality, as the town or city may be at fault. Many municipalities have posted instructions on their website for filing claims.

Average premium for federally backed flood insurance in metro Detroit

-- Wayne County: $881 a year for $167,402 of coverage.

-- Macomb County: $977 a year for $195,625 of coverage.

-- Oakland County: $920 a year for $226,417 of coverage.

Source: FEMA

Federal flood insurance is not available in the following metro Detroit communities that don't participate in the National Flood Insurance Program

-- Addison Township

-- Brighton Township

-- Belleville

-- Howell Township

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-- Melvindale

-- Novi Township

-- Village of Romeo

-- Van Buren Township

Source: National Flood Insurance Program

Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or jcreindl@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JCReindl.

___

(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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