Most basic NYC property-insurance plans don't cover flood damage from tropical storms like Ida, but it's not always hopeless

flooded cars in queens new york from ida
Abandoned cars are left on a flooded highway, as local media reported the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida bringing drenching rain and the threat of flash floods and tornadoes to parts of the northern mid-Atlantic, in the Queens borough of New York City, on September 2, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
  • New Yorkers may be questioning what to do if their insurance policies don't cover flood damage.

  • Insurance claims are highly situational depending on factors like location, risks, and total damages.

  • It helps to know what an insurance plan covers and the federal programs meant to help those dealing with property damage.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Many are still reeling from Tropical Storm Ida that tore through the New York Metropolitan area Wednesday night. Harrowing videos show people wading through their apartments filling with water.

But what happens when you're looking at damaged items from a hurricane or tropical storm and wondering if insurance can help recoup your costs? In short, the devil's in the details of your policy.

Take New York for example, which is no stranger to severe hurricane weather. Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard hard in 2012, causing over $70 billion in damages. New York's ever-changing flood zones and unpredictable weather patterns have made it hard for insurance companies to provide properties with comprehensive coverage against extreme weather.

Not many insurance policies for New York properties cover flood damage caused by hurricanes. Policies can also contains confusing language that carries weird exceptions or rules. For example, many policies cover what is called "perils," or things that cause damage to what a person owns. But while "perils" can cover accidental flooding from a burst pipe, they don't include natural disasters.

"Let's say your apartment is flooded because of a freakish storm surge - anything damaged is on you, and isn't covered by your insurance agency," it says on Lemonade Insurance's website. "Flood insurance goes beyond the coverage of a standard homeowners insurance policy," according to Geico. Insurance companies like Liberty Mutual and Allstate have made similar disclaimers that exclude massive storm damage.

In most cases, flood and wind coverage, which are two separate policies in themselves, are supplemental to typical home and renter's insurance plans. These plans need to be added-on and can cost hundreds more per year. It also takes around 30 days to go into full effect, which means New Yorkers not previously covered who have experienced flooding from Ida are out of luck.

"Most people don't understand their insurance policies, most people don't read their insurance policies," David Paige, a national insurance expert based in the New York area, told Insider. "Maybe the first page where it shows the main information and the cost, but they make a lot of assumptions about their insurance and sometimes they're wrong."

Filing a claim for emergency relief

It's important to read your insurance policy to catch gaps and loopholes that may cost a renter or homeowner hundreds or thousands of dollars. But for those looking at damaged property without the necessary insurance plans, there may still another recourse before paying out-of-pocket.

People can file claims with emergency organizations like FEMA that work through the city of New York. For instance, the National Flood Insurance Program maps areas that are subject to flood hazards and offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners to help alleviate disaster assistance efforts and rising recovery costs. Luckily, the service is currently available to 1,466 communities in the New York area.

"The best thing for people to do is to put in a claim [with emergency relief organizations] and see what happens," says Paige. "It's a much better idea than assuming they don't have the coverage."

People make their way in rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 1, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York City.
People make their way in rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 1, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York City. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

For the future, Paige also suggests homeowners and renters find an independent insurance agent who can better inform a policy holder about what is included in an insurance plan and which company insurance plan best fits you.

New York also has several organizations that provide resources to help advocate for renter's and tenant's rights across the city, like the New York Legal Assistance Group, IMPACCT Brooklyn, and The Actor's Fund.

"There are a lot of people in the New York city area who helped people out, like charities," Paige added.

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