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After flooding, many homeowners learn their insurance won't help

Residents of South Carolina and other areas recently hit by the terrible rain and flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin are just starting to deal with the aftermath. For many homeowners, one of the first things they likely did after making sure that everyone in their family was safe was to place a call to their insurance agent.

Unfortunately, those callers may be surprised to learn that their homeowners’ insurance will not help them. Standard homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flood damage. For that, homeowners must buy flood insurance, usually through the National Flood Insurance Program, The New York Times reports.

As we discussed in this blog back on June 18, Minnesotans living in a 100-year floodplain are required to buy flood insurance through this program. But just 10 percent of South Carolina homeowners carry flood insurance, below the national average of 14 percent. This may seem surprising for people living in a state vulnerable to hurricane activity, but remember that the flooding in that state was at historic levels.

Federal disaster aid may issue grants to help with temporary housing and repairs for some low-income households. But most of the time, flooded-out homeowners without the necessary insurance must take out loans to repair their homes.

Residents may not be completely out of luck. For instance, if flooding indirectly damages the house, such as by causing a tree to fall onto the roof, that usually is covered by homeowners’ insurance. But only flood insurance can guarantee coverage for most flood damage.

Of course, other natural disasters frequently strike, and homeowners may find themselves in a fight with their insurance company. An attorney can make a big difference, if things get this far.

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