PEMA, FEMA Offer Tips to Pa. Residents for Claims

Surveying one’s flood-damaged property is traumatic and mind-boggling. Where does one begin to get things fixed and replaced? Here are some flood insurance claim tips.

First, find the flood insurance policy and read the guidelines on the back-inside cover. Then call an insurance agent to file a flood claim. The agent will need current information, especially if the individual cannot stay in their home.

Separate damaged items from undamaged items, and wet items from dry items. Take pictures or video of all one’s goods and property, including any watermark on the walls when the water recedes. List all damaged or lost items so the adjuster can help one determine their value, and ask for a copy of the estimate for the records.

When in doubt about the claims process, ask the adjuster for written instructions. And contact an insurance company if any problems arise.

Want more help with flood insurance claim issues? Visit the state-and-federal Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) at the New Hope Eagle Fire Company in New Hope, Bucks County; the Sullivan Trail Shopping Center in Easton, Northampton County and the former Odd Lot Outlet Store in Marshalls Creek, Monroe County. The DRCs will remain open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Sunday. These DRCs will close on Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m.

However, a PEMA/FEMA Mobile DRC will still be available in select counties until further notice. Visit a DRC to be placed in contact with a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) specialist to answer any flood insurance claim questions.

If one confers with a FEMA flood insurance specialist or with an insurance agent, inquire about NFIP’s Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage. Included under most NFIP policies, ICC could provide up to $30,000 to help one bring their flood-damaged building up to floodplain ordinance standards and save them from future flood losses.

To be ICC eligible one’s building must (1) be in a Special Flood Hazard Area, (2) be noncompliant when it was flood damaged, (3) and be declared a “substantially damaged” or repetitive loss structure. Only one’s community floodplain administrator can determine if the building is substantially damaged or is a repetitive loss structure.

“Substantially damaged” means the flood damage has affected the structure’s market value by at least 50 percent, while “repetitive damage” means the buildings has been flooded twice in the past 10 years and flood damage resulted in repairs equaling or exceeding 25 percent of the building’s market value in each case. To qualify as a repetitive loss structure, flood insurance claims must have been paid for each of the flood losses and the community’s floodplain management ordinance must contain a repetitive loss provision.

To comply with one’s community’s floodplain management ordinance one can relocate, elevate, or demolish the dwelling. In addition, businesses may qualify for flood proofing. These options can be used in combination.

An ICC claim is separate from the original flood-loss claim, and there is no deductible with ICC coverage. Provided one’s community designates their building as substantially or repetitively damaged, get a “letter of substantial or repetitive loss,” including the wording “by flood,” from a community official. Failure to designate “by flood” will delay the process. Take this letter to an insurance agent and tell him or her one is filing an ICC claim. Upon claim notification, an adjuster will help the individual through the claim process.

With the ICC filed, start getting contractor estimates to elevate, relocate, flood-proof, or demolish the structure. One may qualify for a partial payment after the claims representative has a copy of the signed work contract, a community permit allowing the work, and one’s signed ICC “Proof of Loss.” Work that is not completed will necessitate one returning any partial payment to the insurance company