How to Make a Flood Insurance Claim: Rebuilding After the B.C. Floods
The recent flooding in B.C. has displaced thousands of people, disrupted transportation and supply chains, and caused extensive damage to farms in the Fraser Valley. Non-stop rain led to mudslides and widespread road closures that left hundreds of drivers stranded.
Some of the most devastating losses were experienced in the rich agricultural region outside of Abbotsford. The flooding of the Sumas Prairie has had devastating consequences for hundreds of farms. Farmers rushed to evacuate livestock as dangerous flood waters overwhelmed their properties, and thousands of animals did not survive.
With the flood waters receded, thousands of B.C. residents are now dealing with flood insurance claims. If you’re going through the recovery process in the wake of B.C. flooding, it helps to know how to make a flood insurance claim and how the claims process will help you rebuild.
Restoration Tips for Your Flooding Claim in B.C.
It’s estimated that the B.C. floods resulted in $450 million in insured damage, though many affected properties were in high-risk zones where flooding insurance was not available. Structural damage to homes is a significant part of those losses.
Water damage can affect drywall, insulation, framing, flooring, electrical wiring, pipes, appliances, HVAC systems, plaster, and more. The type of water and the damage level may determine whether or not you can clean up the damage yourself. Extensive damage or contaminated flood water will need to be handled by a professional. These tips can help you balance the work professionals need to undertake with your insurer’s demands.
#1 Document the Damage First
Always document the full extent of the damage before you hire someone to start cleaning up. The insurance company will want evidence of your losses before they agree to pay. While you may be in a rush to rebuild and recover, take the time to collect photo and video evidence of the flood damage.
#2 Disconnect Water and Power
One thing you should do is make sure that the property is safe to enter and that no further damage will occur. Make sure that utilities are shut off quickly, including water, electricity, and gas. Beyond your personal safety, causing further damage could lead to a claim within a claim. These are complicated situations where new damage occurs on a property where there has already been a loss.
#3 Hire Flood Recovery Professionals
Good communication with your insurer is key to making the recovery process go smoothly. Insurers may want you to work with a preferred contractor for restoration. Make sure you know what the insurer’s plan is before you hire your own contractors.
Some homeowners may try to clean up themselves to save money. Removing floodwater and drying out your home with fans and dehumidifiers can be a difficult task, and an unsuccessful attempt can make restoration more expensive.
#4 Look for Mould
Mould is one of the biggest dangers after a flood. Many strains of mould are toxic to people, and exposure to mould can lead to irritation in the eyes, nose, or throat, coughing and wheezing, allergic reactions, and worsening asthma. Mould can also be seriously harmful to the very young.
Mould will spread rapidly in the 24 to 48 hours after water exposure. In order to prevent mould growth, you will want to make sure wet surfaces are cleaned and absorbent materials are removed. If you see signs of mould, remove it with caution. Finally, use a dehumidifier and fans to dry things out. Unless it’s humid outside, leave your doors and windows open to air out dampness. At times, mould can appear inside walls and floors, so inspect thoroughly.
Contents Restoration After the BC Floods
In addition to structural repairs, your flood insurance claim should also help you replace your lost and damaged belongings. There are two ways the insurance company can proceed: either by replacing or restoring lost contents.
The restoration of contents can be a difficult process, and when mould or mildew are involved, it may not be successful. There is no guarantee that even restoration professionals will be able to restore damaged belongings.
How Restoration of Contents Works
The process of salvaging water-damaged belongings starts with removing them to the outdoors and cleaning off any mud and other dirt before drying them out. Wood furniture should be dried outside of the sunlight to prevent warping, though drying other items in the sunlight can help remove and prevent the spread of mould. Mildew-stained areas can also be cleaned with diluted alcohol before being thoroughly dried.
When it comes to electronics like appliances, they should not be turned on or used until they have been thoroughly cleaned, dried, and inspected by a qualified expert.
Most overland floods involve contaminated black water. In cases where black water has caused the damage, you should expect to discard most porous materials, including mattresses, upholstered furniture, clothing, etc. You may be able to restore wood, metal, and plastic furniture, but you may want to consider going straight to replacing your belongings.
Health Risks of Failed Restoration
Living with contents that have not been successfully cleaned and restored after a flood can be extremely hazardous to your health. Moisture and mould can cause an allergic reaction or create respiratory issues.
The problem may be worse if black water was involved. Contaminants such as human waste can transmit E-coli and campylobacteriosis, which can cause severe illnesses. Wastewater can also release endotoxins in the air that can result in long-term respiratory illness. If restoration fails, you must move on to replacing lost belongings.
Contents Restoration and Flood Claims Costs
Insurance companies may prefer to attempt contents restoration because the costs are lower than replacing your belongings. However, this can leave homeowners in a difficult position if restoration fails and items come back damaged.
If the insurer insists on attempting to clean your belongings, but restoration efforts are unsuccessful, you may not have to pay for the restoration attempt. The cost of restoration should not be applied against your coverage limits if the attempt fails, but you may need to push back against the insurer during the flood claim process to make sure you’re not stuck with the bill. Otherwise, the cost of restoration can be applied against your coverage limit, leaving you without enough funds from your flood claim to replace everything that you need.
Replace Lost Belongings in a Flood Damage Claim
Because you pay for the restoration of contents out of your policy limits, you have the right to know the costs, even if the insurance company handles the process. The costs are deducted from your Contents coverage, and a failed restoration can leave you with less money to replace furniture, appliances, electronics, and other belongings.
One thing you can do is ask for a quote for the restoration costs. Instead of going along with the restoration attempt, you may be able to negotiate a way to receive a cash payout of the quote as part of your flood claim. Opting to cash out the restoration cost gives you more control over how to spend the money and what to replace, but it may not be enough to replace everything.
Flood Insurance Claims for Farmers
The B.C. floods affected hundreds of farms and led to devastating livestock losses, especially in the agricultural area of Sumas Prairie near Abbotsford. The loss of livestock, equipment, and product can jeopardize a business and put a significant financial burden on farmers. The situation can be even more stressful for family-operated farms, where both business and personal property, including family homes, have been damaged or lost.
Making insurance claims for farms can prove more complicated than making one for a residential property or a non-farm business. These are some of the things you should know about filing an insurance claim for a farm.
#1 How Product and Livestock Are Treated
The mass loss of livestock in the B.C. floods is a difficult setback for farmers. Rebuilding and recovering will take time, even with a successful flood insurance claim.
Farm policies tend to include livestock insurance that should be paid out as long as flooding is specified as a peril covered by the policy. Limited animal mortality coverage will cover the accidental death of animals in accidents such as a fire or flood. While most livestock will be insured as a group, some livestock such as breeding animals can be insured individuals.
Unfortunately, many farmers may discover that they’re not covered for flooding, especially in high-risk areas. However, the provincial government has announced financial aid that can assist with recovery.
#2 Insurance for Lost Equipment
Equipment is another major source of loss for farmers facing mass flooding events. Flood waters can wash away, break, or contaminate valuable equipment that will need to be replaced. The amount your insurance will reimburse you depends on the type of coverage you have.
If you have Replacement Cost coverage, the value of your flood claim will be based on the cost to purchase the same equipment that you lost. This may mean receiving less than you originally paid, especially for older equipment, but coverage should provide you with enough to replace your losses up to your coverage limit.
Actual Cash Value coverage may leave you with less than it costs to replace everything. Actual Cash Value will factor in depreciation on the equipment depending on their age and condition, and the amount you receive may not be sufficient to replace everything without paying out of your own pocket.
#3 How Soon Can You Get Running Again?
Minimizing the amount of time that it takes to get back up and running is crucial for farming businesses. Part of resuming operations is making sure your insurance claim is handled in a timely manner while still receiving a fair settlement offer from the insurance company.
Flood Damage and Type of Water
The costs and health risks of cleaning up largely depend on the type of water that has affected your home. There are three main categories of flood waters.
Clean water: The first and easiest type of water to clean up is clean water. This comes directly from rain, condensation, or leaky pipes. It’s relatively harmless, and you may be able to clean up the damage on your own.
Gray water: This is slightly dirty water. Examples of gray water include water from a dishwasher, washing machine, a clean toilet, shower, or other sources that are only slightly contaminated. Contamination might include food and associated bacteria, and there are precautions that need to be taken to clean it up safely, including safety gear.
Black water: Black water contains waste and serious contaminants. Contact with black water can cause serious health problems and should be cleaned up by a professional. Overland flood waters come into contact with garbage, overflowing septic systems, manure, and other sources of contamination that can make you very ill. Black water flooding can also delay your return home, as you should not come back until the clean-up has been finished and the waste and garbage removed.
What Happens If You Don’t Have Flood Insurance in B.C.?
Flood insurance is still relatively new in much of Canada, and it is sometimes not included in a standard home insurance policy. In certain high-risk areas of B.C., flood insurance is not available at all, which can leave residents and business owners in a difficult position after such devastating extreme weather events. While about half of B.C. residents have added flood insurance, it’s simply not available in some high-risk areas.
Homeowners who have experienced flood-related losses without insurance may need to rely on government assistance, donations from organizations like the Red Cross, and their own savings.
There may also be cases where homeowners find that their coverage isn’t enough to pay for the full extent of the damages. If you find yourself under-insured, some of the most useful post-flood advice you can use is to carefully budget the recovery process. You may want to avoid attempting contents restoration and instead opt to replace belongings that may prove to be unsalvageable.