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Flood insurance: Are you covered?

September 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two recent water main breaks in the San Fernando Valley are raising questions about what protection you have if your home or business is flooded. It happened so fast and so unexpectedly. In Studio City a large water main burst over the weekend sending thousands of gallons of water into the street flooding nearby homes and businesses. Will their standard homeowner's insurance policy cover the damages?

"The answer is maybe. In the standard homeowner's policy there is coverage for water damage from a sudden and accidental breaking of plumbing," said Peter Moraga from Insurance Information Network. "However, some policies actually determine that the plumbing has to be inside the house and some don't."

So it's best to check with your insurer. Typically only a separate flood insurance policy covers losses by water coming from the ground, which can be expensive and it takes 30 days to get. And in this case even flood insurance might not cover you. Most people in the Coldwater Canyon area don't have such a policy anyway.

In a town hall meeting Wednesday night with homeowners and business owners, the City of L.A. said they would cover their losses. But getting reimbursed could take awhile.

"I can't tell you about the time frame because we are going to be gathering all of the information, and there will be a lot of claims coming in," said Steven Malinowski of the LADWP . "All of those claims are going to have to be sorted out."

So again check with your insurance agent or company and see if you are covered by your homeowner's policy and use that first.

"If it is covered by your policy you are going to get your money quicker by going through your insurance company," said Moraga.

And if by chance you live in one the areas recently burned out by the wildfires, you might want to consider getting flood insurance.

"People think, 'Well, I live on a hill why do I need flood insurance?'" explains Moraga. "But we know that when the rains come all of those hills are diluted of vegetation and there could be flash floods."

It used to be that flood insurance was available only through the federal government, but that has changed. Some private companies are now offering it so check with your insurance agent.

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