Irma and Harvey's lesson: check your insurance

Don't Waste Your Money

Now that the flood waters have receded in Houston, comes a reality for tens of thousands of homeowners with damaged homes: they don't have flood insurance.

Nor do many Florida residents who don't live along the coast, where flood insurance is mandatory.

While the federal government pledges to help many of them rebuild, getting funds can take months, if past hurricanes are any indication.

Are you covered for water damage?

Hurricane Harvey and Irma are a reminder of nature's potential wrath. So what if  your home were to flood from a hurricane, or just a localized storm? Would you be covered for damage?  In most cases, the answer is no.

It was one year ago -- late August 2016 -- when many Cincinnati area homeowners were swamped by 5 feet of water, after days of heavy rain.

Most of them, like Amanda Cole of Oakley, had no flood insurance. "We don't have flood insurance because we are not in a flood zone. We were told we didn't need it," she said.

Now a year later, despite no insurance help, Cole and others have repaired the damage, at tremendous cost in many cases.

But neighbor Robert Bedinghaus worries another big storm could do it over again.

"When the water comes up, everything overloads with all the building they are doing, new construction," he said. "It keeps getting worse, even though it's been bad since I was a kid."

Millions of homes may be flood prone

Development, in the form of more and more subdivisions, highways, and shopping centers, is turning non-flood areas into potential flood zones all across the country,

Insurance groups say that unless you live on a hilltop, you should purchase flood insurance these days.

Insurance board director Ron Eveligh says a flood policy costs about $500 a year for $250,000 of coverage. It is sold by the federal government, through local insurance agents.

Don't think your agent will be able to help you if water rushes in to your home, and you don't have coveage. "There is no flood coverage unless they have a flood insurance policy," he said.

Flood insurance would cover all the ruined walls and furnishings that Texas homeowners are dealing with.

A  cheaper alternative?

For a lot of families, however, an extra $500 a year is really too rich for their budget. But there is a cheaper alternative worth looking at: drain backup insurance.

Drain or sewer backup protection is an add-on, or "rider," on your existing policy, for $75 a year.

"Back up sewer coverage is offered by a majority of insurance companies, and it can be added to your homeowners policy," Eveligh said.

It covers you for storm water or sewage that comes up drains, which is very common these days as storms seem to get bigger and last longer. And it is incredibly affordable, at just $5 a month or so.

Bottom line: If you are in a low lying area, whether or not it is a flood zone, flood insurance can be well worth the cost. If you can't afford it, at least ask about sewer backup insurance, so you don't waste your money.

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