Louisiana Flooding: Debris Removal
In what FEMA has been calling the 2016 Mid-Summer Severe Storms (i.e. the catastrophic flooding in Louisiana), FEMA (the federal agency charged with administering the National Flood Insurance Program) has issued guidance on the issue of debris removal. According to FEMA, damaged items should be removed from the insured building for health and/or safety reasons and to mitigate damage. In those instances where the items have been removed from the insured building and deemed debris, the policyholder (i.e. homeowner) is required to substantiate their loss. See link to FEMA’s bulletin: http://www.nfipiservice.com/Stakeholder/pdf/bulletin/w-16061.pdf
The Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) requires that the policyholder separate damaged from undamaged property putting it in the best possible order so the adjuster may examine it. It is the policyholder’s duty to perform the separation described above and prepare an inventory of damaged property including quantity, description, and the total amount of loss claimed. Any bills, receipts, photographs of damages, and related documents should be attached to the inventory.
If building and/or contents flood damaged property is removed before the adjuster is able to examine it, according to FEMA, the policyholder must photograph the items and prepare the aforementioned inventory. See “Documenting Your Flood Damage Claim with Photographs”: http://www.floodinsuranceattorneys.com/documenting-your-flood-damage-claim-with-photographs/
To minimize potential documentation issues, if possible, the policyholder should retain for the adjuster, samples or swatches of carpeting, wallpaper, furniture upholstery, window treatments, and other items where the type and quality of material will impact the amount payable on the claim. Photographs should also include groups of items such as clothing, kitchen items, furniture, etc. These items, along with the policyholder’s written inventory of damaged items, should be given proper consideration by the insurance company. And if they are not, it will go a long way in any potential litigation.