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What you should know about your homeowners' or renters' policy when it comes to flood damage

Posted at 2:12 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 18:20:15-04

(WXYZ) — Dirty. Smelly. Nasty. That's how Bridgett Upshaw describes what backed up into the Dearborn townhouse on Firestone near Michigan Avenue that she's rented for the past eight years.

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"It was raw sewage," she said. "Nasty water. Just really nasty."

Upshaw has renters insurance. It's the same coverage she had seven years ago when heavy rains led to a similar backup of raw sewage in the townhouse and countless other homes across Dearborn.

Upshaw didn't change her insurance coverage after the 2014 disaster.

She didn't think lightning would strike her twice ... until it did.

"I didn't think it was going to happen again," Upshaw told 7 Action News.

A number of Dearborn residents are placing blame on the city for not improving the infrastructure or failing to do what they deem necessary to prevent another disaster that now has some people out of thousands of dollars in damages once again.

"What many people don't know is that your typical homeowners or renters policy doesn't cover flood damages," said Anita Fox, Director of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS).

DIFS is a state consumer protection agency that can help people navigate insurance questions and even help resolve disputes with insurance carriers.

Fox said it's critical that people understand what coverage they have, ideally, before an incident or disaster.

"We can't change the terms of your policy, but we can certainly help you advocate with your insurer or help you get the right documents and help you get the right information," said Fox.

For flood insurance, Fox points people to FloodSmart.gov to purchase coverage.

When it comes to sewer backups, consumers usually have to purchase a rider - a provision added to their policy - for added benefits that aren't usually covered under basic insurance.

And in the event of any water intrusion at your home, DIFS urges consumers to, first, secure their property from further damage; start keeping a record of costs; and contact their insurance agent/company to find out what's covered in the policy they've purchased.

Insurance Claims Tracking Sheet by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

"And ask, 'What kind of coverage do I have for water damage?' Don't just use the word flood. Don't assume you have it or you don't have it," said Fox. "The worst thing you can do is not reach out to your company in a timely manner."

Barbara Hernandez remembers the disaster in 2014 that destroyed the contents of her basement the first time.

"I lost a lot but, you know, I figured so did a whole lot of other people," Hernandez said. "But, right away, I called my insurance company and said, 'I need some coverage on this. I don't want this to happen again.'"

And this time, with a rider on her policy to cover sewer backups, Hernandez has already replaced her air conditioning unit and hot water heater. Several workers from professional cleaning and restoration company were also hard at work pulling out everything in her finished basement that was destroyed before sanitizing it.

Hernandez now urges people to get flood insurance and a rider for sewer backups to protect themselves for whatever life, Mother Nature, or an aging infrastructure will bring.

As for Bridgett Upshaw, she said she's had enough of the sewer backups.

"I want to move to an apartment." A second-story unit, she said. "I'm tired of Dearborn floods. I'm over it."

If you have an insurance question or need help trying to resolve a dispute with your insurance carrier, you can call DIFS toll-free hotline: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-999-6442.

You can also file a complaint at Michigan.gov/DIFScomplaints.