If it’s safe, take photos or videos of the damage – but leave the roof climbing to professionals, Hunter said. You can also submit pictures of your possessions taken before the storm to document your losses.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the flood insurance program, recommends that flood-damaged items that pose a health hazard, such as mold growth, be thrown away after taking a photo. Keep samples of items damaged by the flood, such as carpets and curtains, to show to the appraiser.
Retain receipts of any initial repairs, hotel and meal expenses. While federal flood protection guidelines do not reimburse temporary living expenses, home insurance generally covers these expenses if they are the result of wind damage. In state-declared disaster areas, disaster relief can help to cover the cost of living that the flood insurance does not cover. You can search FEMA’s Disasters website to see if your area qualifies.
Fortunately, the usual home contents insurance usually covers damage caused by strong winds – such as roofs blown away, shingles or siding or rain blown in. If your property has been hit by both wind and flooding, you may be eligible for the cost of living under your policy, Mr. Hunter said.
Here are some questions and answers about flood insurance:
What if I am not satisfied with my flood damage?
If you think your payout is too low, you can appeal it. You can ask the appraiser’s manager to reconsider your claim, or you can ask the insurer to re-examine. If you still disagree, you can file a written complaint with FEMA within 60 days of the insurer’s letter of rejection.
In the event of serious damage, you can hire a public insurance expert – a professional expert who will represent you and not the insurer. In most states, public experts operate with a success fee, which means they are not paid upfront, but instead take part of the severance pay – often 15 percent. (Louisiana doesn’t allow contingency fees, so experts typically charge a flat-rate or hourly fee.) Because the fee can be high, the consumer association doesn’t recommend hiring public experts immediately, Hunter said.
However, insurers could try to delay or refuse payment of claims in hopes that policyholders will give up and accept the original payout, said Anita Taff, president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. Insurance policies can be complex, she said, and the federal flood program has deadlines that must be met to protect your claim. So an adjuster can help you stay on track. Usually, she said, an initial consultation with a public appraiser is free. If you are considering hiring one, you can check the club’s website for member adjusters who agree to the group’s rules of conduct and training.