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THE AFTERMATH OF SANDY: HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

Two weeks have passed since superstorm Sandy devastated our region. Sandy's wrath forced the evacuation of many residents due to loss of power and/or structural damage to their residences.

As people affected by Sandy head back to their homes, many of them will unfortunately face the realization that their homeowner's insurance may not cover flooding.

Whether or not insurance covers water damage may depend on where the water came from. There is a difference between water that rises from the bottom up, such as flood water, and threats from above, such as rain damage. If your damage is solely due to rain, you are covered under your homeowner's policy.

On the other hand, heavy water filling your basement because the soil can't absorb rain fast enough is likely be considered flood damage by your insurer. When it comes to water that rises from the bottom up, your standard policy will most likely not cover you.

If you have not read the fine print in your policy, you may be unaware of these so-called exclusions.

Flood insurance is typically not covered under a standard homeowner's policy. For protection against flood damage, you would have to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. Flood insurance is almost always sold through a federal policy and rates for flood insurance are set by the government.

In a nutshell, if it's coming from the sky it's your homeowner's policy, if it's coming from the ground it's flood insurance.

On a positive note, Sandy was no longer a hurricane when it reached shore as it did not have "hurricane-force winds", hence it is now considered a "post-tropical" superstorm instead. This is crucial because it will save many New York and New Jersey homeowners a heavier deductible. Homeowner insurance policies in coastal states often have a clause that states if damage is caused by a hurricane, the out-of-pocket deductible changes. The standard deductible is a flat maximum (usually up to $1,000), but in a hurricane, the deductible is between 1 percent and 5 percent of the insured value of the home.

Please also note that if your region is declared a federal disaster area, you can apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, commonly referred to as FEMA, for assistance even if you do not have flood insurance.

- Alan Karmazin, Esq.

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