Although the Lowcountry hasn’t experienced a full-blown hurricane in nearly 20 years, there’s been no dearth of media coverage of tropical storm disasters elsewhere in the United States, from Texas’ Gulf Coast to South Florida to Puerto Rico.
Just watching the television news footage of these incredibly devastating storms was heart-wrenching. And, for most viewers, their first thought was a silent prayer that the people affected were alive and safe from further harm. The second thought most often was a question: I wonder if these people have insurance?
In all likelihood, many, if not most, of these homeowners and renters had some form of insurance. But adequate flood insurance is another issue entirely.
One local expert on all things insurance, Mount Pleasant Allstate agent Philip Bradley, explained that homeowners’ insurance policies simply don’t cover the often incredible losses from hurricane-driven water damage.
“Flooding,” Bradley noted, “is defined as a temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry. This is typically described as ‘rising water,’ as opposed to winddriven rain accumulation. And homeowners’ policies just don’t include it.”
Given that reality, what are Lowcountry homeowners to do, faced with the distinct possibility of flood loss during the 2018 hurricane season?
Bradley’s recommendation is that “It’s always a good idea to have a conversation with your insurance agent regarding your property protection and any potential additional coverage needs. If you do not currently have flood insurance, you can purchase it, but there is a 30-day standard waiting period unless it is required due to a loan closing.”
Who actually needs flood insurance? What if your home is inland, away from open water, marsh or our numerous rivers and creeks?
“Everyone lives in a potential flood zone,” Bradley observed. “If your property is situated in a high-risk or special flood hazard area, your mortgage company will require you to carry flood insurance. Outside these zones, there are certain ‘preferred-risk areas’ that are less likely to flood. But even if you live outside the special flood hazard areas, you should consider a low-cost preferred-risk flood policy, especially since almost 25 percent of all flood claims are filed in low-to-moderate risk areas.”
Bradley explained that flood insurance is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program through FEMA.
“This is a government-run program, and rates are the same regardless of where you purchase your policy. Location is important. FEMA flood maps are used to determine what flood zone your property is in and its corresponding elevation. An elevation certificate, done by a survey company, will determine the level of the first floor of your home, which is then compared to the ‘base flood elevation’ of your specific property.”
Flood insurance, Bradley noted, has a maximum coverage limit of $250,000 for each dwelling and $100,000 for the home’s contents. And renters as well as homeowners should have it.
“Do not mistake your landlord’s flood insurance for your own,” he warned.
And when a major hurricane looms, even if you already have adequate flood insurance, Bradley’s best advice is to get out of town.
“And please have both an early evacuation plan in place, and video your home inside and out before leaving. If you have a loss, you’ll need current documentation of both the contents and condition of your home.”
To learn more, call Bradley at 843-881-2886.
By Bill Farley