Homeowner’s insurance and flooding: What does it cover?


WATE 6 On Your Side has received calls from a lot of people who say their homeowner’s insurance will not cover damage caused by the record rain stores. Some estimate that repairing damage to their homes will cost $10-20,000.

A lake was created behind Chris Davis’s home in North Knox County last month. On February 23 and 24, water filled his front yard and the street in front of his home.

“The water kept rising on the house and by Sunday at noon, the water had reached our porches. We never thought the water would ever come beyond the air conditioning systems,” said Davis.

“There’s a hill here, it’s probably 30 foot from that tree back there. It’s just a mess. Our heat and air unit on the other side has been underwater. This is our neighbor’s heat and air, it’s been underwater,” said neighbor Terry May.

His garage has dried out, but May said there was nearly a foot of water in it at one time. 

Davis and May have full homeowner’s insurance. However, they both received the same answer shortly after calling their insurance companies and filing a damage claim.

“That initial phone call was just five minutes long. They essentially said, you don’t have flood insurance, you don’t live in a flood plain, sorry,” said Davis.

“Because it’s a flood and we don’t have flood insurance. We tried to buy flood insurance. They didn’t sell us flood insurance,” said May.

For 30 years, Ben Johnson has been an independent property and casualty insurance agent.  He is not Davis or May’s insurance representative. He showed WATE a typical homeowner’s insurance policy and the exclusions listed on that policy. At the top of the list is the word flood.

“It’s actually when there is a literal flood outside your home. For example, you open your front door and it looks like there is a lake in your front yard. Basically, that lake coming into your home would be deemed as a flood. That’s when flood insurance could and would more likely take care of that issue,” said Johnson.

More than an inch of water covered the entire lower level of Gini Thrasher’s home in Powell. Thrasher owns a split level home and half of the lower floor is below ground level. Early last week, Thrasher filed an insurance claim.

“They told me they went ahead and took the claim off because it would not be covered because it was under a flood policy and I did not have a flood policy. But I told him it wasn’t a flood, it was excessive rainfall,” said Thrasher.

There was no flooding around Thrasher’s home. However, there is a water damage exclusion on a typical homeowner’s policy. It says: “Water damage means water below the surface of the ground that seeps or leaks through a wall or foundation.”

“That water that seeps through the basement walls or seeps through the floor up into your home is not something that is a coverable or a potential claim for a customer,” said Johnson.

Homeowners without flood insurance and whose homes were damaged will have to pay for repairs out of their own pockets.

If you live in a high flood zone, your lender or loan company will typically require flood insurance, but any homeowner can buy it and the cost varies depending on your risk

Flood insurance for a typical $100,000 home located in a low-risk flood zone is about $200 a year, but that same priced home in a high-risk flood zone can cost as high as $2,000 a year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a website where you can find a flood map and see for yourself where flood risk zones are located. The map, produced by the National Flood Insurance Program, lists the insurance rate map and zones, showing high and low risk areas.

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