Storms and Flooding--What You Need to Know as a Westchester County Homeowner

Flooded--basements, cars, and swamped homes in flood zones.  We see images of flood and storm damage everywhere, and it is likely that you have personally experienced it.  Flooding seems to be happening more than in the past. One recent TV commercial noted that major storm events are becoming much more common.  The "100 year flood" does not mean it happens once in 100 years.  “Over the span of 30 years, which is the length of many people’s mortgages, there is a once in four chance it is going to happen,” said Mari Tye, a project scientist in the mesoscale and microscale meteorological laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “Over 100 years, there is a 67 percent chance.”

We who live in the Northeast have suffered through the remnants of 2 hurricanes passing through our area in the last month. Now is a good time to review your flood insurance plan.  I recently sat down with Joe Solimine and his Insurance Team from Meridian Risk Management and asked them for their advice on flood insurance for Westchester Homeowners.

1. What kind of water damage coverage do you currently recommend for Westchester County customers, ie, sewer backup, overland water, groundwater problems, etc?

It’s our job as an independent insurance advisor to inform our clients of the varied water damage coverages available and help them make an informed decision on which coverages to buy. In addition to the water protection provided by a standard homeowner policy, Westchester homeowners should consider buying coverage for water damage caused by sump pump failure and sewer/drain backup. This cause of loss is much more common than people think, and the coverage can be added onto your homeowner policy at a reasonable cost. Some insurance carriers have homeowner policies with this type of protection built into the policy, while other carriers will give you the option to buy this additional coverage. It’s important to check in with your insurance agent to see what your options are.

2. Do you recommend flood insurance for Westchester County homeowners?

It’s a good idea for Westchester homeowners to understand the different protections provided by a homeowner policy and a flood insurance policy. Many people assume their homeowner policy will cover a loss caused by surface water rushing into their basement/home. This is not the case and is too often discovered at the time of a loss when it’s too late. If your home is in a high-risk flood zone, we recommend purchasing a flood insurance policy. Even if your home is in a flood zone “X”, a low-risk flood area, you should seriously consider purchasing flood insurance. These policies have varying coverage terms and are best discussed thoroughly with your agent.

3. How often do you recommend customers evaluate their flood/water coverage?

This should be evaluated at least once a year. When your homeowner policy renewal is approaching, you and your insurance agent should discuss your options.

4. What is changing as far as insurance for this type of coverage? Premiums rising or less coverage?

While not much changes with type of insurance and coverage terms for these policies, increases do happen here and there. Percentage of increase can vary quite a bit based upon your location, e.g. Florida vs. Northeast.

5. Is there a clause for property abandonment (vacation, second homes, etc) that negates coverage?  What does that mean for average homeowner?

Vacation and secondary homes are viewed as a higher risk by the insurance carriers. These types of homes could have a potential water loss go undiscovered for weeks, if not months. The homeowner premiums are rated accordingly; however, all the same water damage coverages are
still available for secondary and vacation homes.

6. Are there rebates available nationally or specific to Westchester County?

Insurance carriers provide significant discounts to homeowners who install automatic water shut-off valves. These systems are the best way to prevent a water loss caused by leaking pipes in your home. The device is installed onto your home’s water main, with sensors placed in areas that are at high risk for a leak – such as under a water heater, dishwasher or washing machine. As soon as water from the leak comes in contact with the sensor, the valve will automatically shut off the water supply in your home, preventing any further damage from happening. Homeowners should also ask their insurance agents about potential rebates on permanent generators.

7. High Value items--should they be insured separately

As an insurance advisor, it’s our job to inform clients and prospects about the advantages of individually insuring certain high value items. Ultimately, it’s their decision on whether or not to move forward with this type of protection. When you insure an individual item, your coverage limit will be higher than the protection provided by a standard homeowner policy. Most standard homeowner’s policies carry coverage limitations on personal property like jewelry or silverware. These limits can max out at $2,500 or $5,000 when you might need more for your high value item. There are also opportunities to reduce or remove deductibles on scheduled individual items. This is especially beneficial when most homeowner policies have higher deductibles such as $5,000 or $10,000.

For more information about Flood Insurance and your property, contact your insurance broker, or the experts at Meridian Risk Management.

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