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Tips For Homeowners: Flood Insurance, El Nino, & You

Tips For Homeowners: Flood Insurance, El Nino, & You
Tips for Homeowners - "People still mistakenly assume they are covered for floods under their standard homeowner policies. That might explain why only 9% of homeowners in the West have flood insurance, according to industry estimates."

Tips For Homeowners: Flood Insurance, El Nino, & You

Tips For Homeowners | Flood Insurance | Brion Costa | Steve Gaghagen
Mud flows down Hicrest Road during heavy rain in Glendora earlier this month. Flood insurance covers mudflow damage, but homeowners and the National Flood Insurance Program sometimes differ on what qualifies as a mudflow. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

As El Nino Continues, Do You Know What You're Insured For?

As we move deeper into winter, we've had one hit from El Nino so far and are expecting more. At this time, no one knows the current status of El Nino, but we're all looking for the latest El Nino update, that's for sure. All over Southern California and the San Gabriel Valley, people are preparing as best they can for the possibility that we might face some of the El Nino conditions that have led to property damage and even loss of life during previous El Nino years. We all want to be prepared as best we can. It's times like this that people start to think about flood insurance. Sad to say, it's times like this that are among the only times people actually do think about this kind of coverage. Worse still, when people do think about it, most discover that they really have no idea what type of damage they are covered for and what type they would have to handle on their own. Believe it or not, most homeowners still operate under the incorrect impression that their Homeowner's Insurance policy covers them for flood. They are sadly mistaken. When a home is purchased using a federally insured loan, such as a VA or FHA loan, the lender will require a flood insurance policy if the property is situated within a federally mapped flood area. These areas are mapped by  the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and there are about 236,000 policies inforce in California today. Most of these were purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program which was established by Congress in 1968. The huge majority of the homes insured for flood are within these FEMA mapped districts. However, as we learned in our last El Nino, you don't need to be in a FEMA flood zone to suffer severe flood damage. Even with flood insurance, there are caveats to be aware of. Most policies may cover flood but, at the same time, may not cover mud flows. When investigating what a policy covers and what it doesn't, it's possible to get all fouled up and lost in the weeds trying to decide the definition of "flood", "mud flow", "dirty water intrusion" ... the nomenclature seems endless. The bottom line here is that most folks don't know enough about their own coverage or about flood insurance in general. FEMA has been running a publicity campaign urging homeowners at risk to purchase flood insurance policies. There has been a recent surge in policies sold in California. Still, as a group, homeowners are woefully uninformed on the subject. Here's a really informative article by Matt Stevens hfrom the L.A. Times. It provides a complete rundown and some good advice.

Ready For El Niño? Here's What Many Homeowners Don't Know About Flood Insurance | L.A. Times

L.A. Times
"Experts have warned that this winter's El Niño could generate flooding, mudflows and landslides. But the entire spectrum of storm-related damage is not covered by homeowner insurance or even flood insurance. In general, experts say damage from falling water is covered by homeowner insurance whereas damage from rising water requires flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program says it covers "direct physical loss" caused by "flood," which it defines as "an excess of water on land that is normally dry." Damage from what FEMA calls "mudflows" — rivers of liquid and flowing mud — is also covered by flood insurance. But FEMA distinguishes between mudflows and what the agency calls "moving saturated soil masses" that go down a slope without "a flowing characteristic." "Some things are very straightforward," said Ahsha Tribble, a regional FEMA administrator. "Some things have a bit of a gray area." ..."
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Tips For Homeowners - Talk To Your Agent

The best advice we can give you, if you're concerned about possible damage to your property from flood-related events during this El Nino season is to talk to your insurance agent and get a real rundown on just what you're covered for and what you're not. Flood insurance is not necessary for everyone, and there are many holes in coverage if you do have it. However, not knowing if you need it or what you're covered for if you get it is a prescription for disaster. As in all things: do your due diligency. Don't guess at your situation. Take the time to know where you stand, so you can protect your home, your investment, yourself, and your family. Tips for Homeowners

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