Spring is peak flooding season in much of North America and this year is set to have an unprecedented flood season according to both the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) in the US and Environment Canada. Increased snowmelt and fast-changing temperatures have already impacted New Brunswick, Quebec, and parts of Ontario, and flood season is still young.
As a homeowner, experiencing a major flood or being required to evacuate during flooding can be difficult. You don’t know the extent of the damage until it is safe to return to your home, and once you are allowed to assess the damage, the process of rebuilding has only just begun. As you begin this process, it helps to know what steps you need to take to begin the cleanup, initiate your insurance claim, and make sure you do everything right.
1. Contact Your Insurance Company
The first step you should take when you have been affected by a flood is to call your insurance company and inform them that you suffered a flood. You’ll have to describe the reason for the flood (heavy rain, burst pipe, etc.) and give some direction as to the amount of damage (not being able to use your basement den versus being told to evacuate) and then the insurance company will initiate a claim. Even if you have not had an opportunity to assess the damages from flood waters, your policy likely covers Additional Living Expenses incurred due to loss of use of your house, such as short-term rental costs. In many cases, you can even request a cash advance to help you cover those immediate costs. It will later be deducted from your total insurance payment.
2. Assessing the Damages
There is a lot of pressure to clean up quickly after a flood. Removing and drying the water within 48 hours makes mould growth less likely both for the structure of your home and on your belongings. Despite the pressure to act quickly, it is essential that you thoroughly document the damage caused by the flooding. Your insurance provider will require this documentation to approve parts of your claim down the line.
You can use photos and videos to document structural damage and damage to your personal belongings. An insurance adjuster will inspect your home and belongings as well, so that they can make an assessment of the damage and provide direction to the insurance company with regard to paying out the claim. Having your own documentation may come in handy if the adjuster misses or mischaracterizes some damage. If you remove any personal belongings or repairing before the adjuster inspects and without documenting the damage yourself, those items and repairs may be missed or denied in the insurance adjuster’s assessment.
Many homeowners feel overwhelmed by the process and need help dealing with an insurance adjuster to ensure that everything is documented and claimed appropriately.
3. Safety & Cleaning Up
Removing standing water and drying out your home should be your first goals for the cleanup process. Standing water and wet belongings such as clothing or furniture allow viruses, bacteria, and mould to grow. This can dangerously affect air quality in your home. Dampness and mould can be dangerous for your respiratory system.
Always wear rubber boots when you are walking through standing water, especially in your home, and keep extension cords above the water line. Turn off the power breaker even if there is no power to your home to prevent an electrical shock.
Your insurance company should help you pay for cleaning up and repairing damage to your home. Contact them quickly and get help dealing with the insurance adjuster.