In addition to being aware of safety concerns, Massachusetts residents should also be aware of how flooding events can affect them financially . Most homeowner's insurance policies do not pay for damage caused by flooding. Unless you have a special endorsement to your homeowner's policy or a separate flood insurance policy, it is unlikely that your insurance company will pay for damage caused by a flood. Even if you do have a flood insurance policy, there are usually significant restrictions on what is covered.
In the event that your county is declared a disaster area by the President of the United States, you may be eligible to receive money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover the costs of certain repairs. In addition, flood victims may be able to apply for loans from the federal Small Business Administration to finance the cost of repairs associated with floods.
Below are some tips for dealing with an insurance company relating to a flood claim. You can also click the links below to learn more about relief from FEMA and loans through the federal Small Business Administration.
To learn more about federal disaster relief, including FEMA relief and Small Business Administration loans you can also go to: www.disasterassistance.gov.
- If you believe that you have insurance coverage for floods, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to notify them of the damage. Find out exactly what your insurance policy does and does not cover. Most flood insurance policies are issued as part of the National Flood Insurance Program. If you have a flood insurance policy issued as part of the National Flood Insurance Program, click here to learn more about what is and is not covered.
- Take whatever reasonable steps you can to prevent further damage (such as putting a tarp on a leaking roof or siphoning water out of your basement). If you fail to take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your home, your insurance company might refuse to pay for that further damage.
- Document the damage to your home, take pictures or video and prepare a list of lost or damaged materials and items. Keep a copy for yourself.
- Do not throw away your damaged property without documenting the damage and/or allowing the insurance company to inspect the damage first.
- Save receipts for what you spend on clean up or repairs so that you can submit them to your insurance company when the time comes.
- Keep written notes on your dealings with your insurance company and/or agent concerning the claim.
- Ask your insurance company whether there are any limits on how long you have to complete the repairs that the insurance company is paying for.
- Do not feel pressured to accept what an insurance company offers you if you feel it is not a fair settlement. Do not be afraid to take the time to understand the process, get help when needed, and advocate for your interests.
- You may be approached by a public adjuster who may offer to handle your insurance claim on your behalf. Public adjusters are supposed to act as your representative in dealing with an insurance company in exchange for a percentage of your insurance settlement. There is no requirement that you hire a public adjuster to handle your claim. Public adjusters will require you to enter into a contract with them before assisting you with your claim. Please read this contract carefully before signing it. Before hiring a public adjuster, it is advisable to contact the Division of Insurance to see if complaints have been made against the public adjuster in the past.
- If you have questions or feel that you have been mistreated by an insurance company, agent, or public adjuster, call the Attorney General's Insurance & Financial Services Hotline at 1-888-830-6277. In addition to bringing cases against companies that engage in unfair and deceptive trade practices, the Attorney General's Office offers a free and voluntary mediation services to consumers who are experiencing difficulty with insurance claims.
For more information on Flood Insurance, visit the National Flood Insurance Program website.
What Assistance does FEMA offer?
FEMA offers money through its Housing Needs Assistance program for individuals whose homes are damaged and located in counties that the President has declared to be disaster areas. This money comes in the form of grants and may be used to fix any of the following:
- Structural parts of your home (foundation, outside walls, roof).
- Windows, doors, floors, walls, ceilings, cabinetry.
- Septic or sewage systems.
- Well or other water systems.
- Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems.
- Utilities (electrical, plumbing, and gas systems).
- Entrance and exit ways from your home, including privately owned access roads.
- Blocking, leveling, and anchoring of a mobile home and reconnecting or resetting its sewer, water, electrical, fuel lines, and tanks.
Who can Apply for Relief from FEMA?
- FEMA's Housing Needs Assistance program is limited to federally declared disasters.
- If there is a significant storm or other disaster in Massachusetts, check the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's website to find out whether your county was declared a federal disaster area.
- To learn more about federal disaster relief, including who is eligible for relief from FEMA, what types of relief are available from FEMA, and how to apply for FEMA relief, visit the federal government's disaster assistance website: www.disasterassistance.gov.
- Even if a disaster is declared in your county and your home is damaged as a result, keep in mind that FEMA will likely require that you also file a claim with your insurance company.
The Small Business Administration ("SBA") is an independent federal agency that offers low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profit organizations to repair or replace real estate, and personal property including automobiles. These are loans and not grants, and therefore they must be repaid.
The SBA authorizes loans during federally declared disasters AND other designated disasters.
For more information on current disaster declarations, whether you qualify for an SBA loan, and how to apply, visit the SBA's website or the federal government's disaster relief website: www.disasterassistance.gov. You may also contact the Attorney General's Insurance and Financial Services Division at 1-888-830-6277.