A rising tide of interest floats flood insurance

Published online: Jun 08, 2011 News Brian J. O'Connor - www.detnews.com
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I was planning on taking my boat to the mechanic last week. But after the gully-washing rainstorms that gushed through Metro Detroit, I figure I can just wait for another inch or two of rain to fall and the thing will float to him all by itself.

The torrents that hit southeast Michigan were enough to flush freeways and flood family rooms. The downpour sent the Rouge River cresting at 20 feet over flood stage Thursday and put many homeowners in mind to buy one of two things: flood insurance or an ark.

For me, the ark is out. I have enough trouble with a 17-foot deck boat, and I simply refuse to gather male and female representatives of every kind of animal. If it were left up to me, after 40 days and 40 nights of rain, the world would have to find a way to muddle on without mosquitoes, yellow jackets and any of those tiny white yappy furball dogs.

Don't get wallet drained

But for a lot of us, flood insurance should be in. Especially if you think you don't need it. If you've got a mortgage, a bank will require you to hold flood insurance if you're within a high-risk area for flooding. But, as the Insurance Institute of Michigan notes, nearly 30 percent of all flood claims come from outside the "100-year-floodplain" shown on federal maps.

Going without flood insurance means that if a downpour pours into your house, you'll be draining your wallet as well as your basement, with the cost of fixing walls, heating or air-conditioning units and washers or dryers. That's because homeowner policies exclude flood damage, explained Franklin Reid, an assistant vice president who oversees flood insurance for Met Life Auto & Home.

"If your homeowners policy has sump pump coverage, where your pump fails, you have some limited coverage, but maybe just up to $10,000," he says.

Flood insurance claims are paid by the federal government, but policies are sold and administered by insurance firms. Rates are set based on the size of your home and where it falls in the federal flood maps, so you don't need to shop around. For a home, the maximum coverage is $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for some contents (only some basement items are covered). Premiums are about $600 for a high-risk home and $200 in a low- to moderate-risk area.

Waiting period 30 days

There are two surprises in buying flood policies, Reid adds. First, there's a 30-day waiting period until a policy takes effect. So don't wait until the puddles are lapping at your door to buy.

The second is that flood insurance doesn't cover finished basements, including carpeting, furniture, electronics and personal belongings. When it comes to your lower level with the leather lounge chairs and 62-inch plasma screen, you're the one who pays if rising water turns your man cave into a man grotto.

If you canceled your flood insurance because your budget was pinched, or because you paid off the mortgage and your bank can no longer require it, you may want to reconsider before pairs of animals start showing up at your door. Or check the map service center at www.fema.org.

And just imagine the irony for most of us Michigan homeowners: buying flood insurance for homes already under water.

boconnor@detnews.com

(313) 222-2145



From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110530/OPINION03/105300318/A-rising-tide-of-interest-floats-flood-insurance#ixzz1OemAU9Xo

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