July 20, 2024

Brad Marolf

Business & Finance Wonders

St. Louis homeowners may bear financial brunt of flood damage | Local Business

St. Louis homeowners may bear financial brunt of flood damage | Local Business

ST. LOUIS — John Ward hauled garbage bags of his ruined belongings to the curb of his home in St. Louis’ Ellendale neighborhood on Wednesday.

Nine inches of rain dumped on the region Tuesday, beating the previous record set in 1915 by 2 inches and flooding swaths of the metro area, including Ellendale, which flooded again on Thursday.

Ward said he had flood insurance for a while, but, over the years, the price tag was high and water had never reached his house, so he canceled it.

“For the last year, I was paying $100 a month,” he said.

It’s not yet known how costly Tuesday’s historic flood will be for the St. Louis region. Insurance agents across the metro area say they’re still fielding calls from customers about damage and expect more.

Agents warn, however, that flood damage is not covered under a typical homeowner’s insurance policy and many homeowners won’t have flood insurance. That means repairs are expected to come out of folks’ own pockets.

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Even if a property owner has flood insurance, the policy may only cover the building and not personal belongings. Others may not cover things like a damaged fence. And flood insurance may not cover sewer backups or sump pump failures, said Tracie Bibb, an agent with Allstate Insurance.

Insurance companies rely on an adjuster’s physical inspection to determine whether a structure was damaged by water that overflowed from a sewer, drain or sump, or flood water from rivers or lakes that overflow their banks or oversaturated ground.

Farmers Insurance agent Paul Hauser said he heard from many customers on Wednesday who had water in their basements and others also experienced sump pump failure. But one client from University City did have flood damage.

“She has flood insurance, so she’s gonna get some financial assistance,” Hauser said.

Flood insurance can be pricey. Policies can range from $600 a year to $1,500-$2,000 if the property is in a special designated area, he said.

“It’s definitely an extra expense,” Hauser said. Policies purchased now would not cover damage from previous flooding.

Property owners in high-risk flood areas with federally-backed mortgages are required to have flood insurance — as are those who received federal disaster aid, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Everyone doesn’t have to have that extra coverage and that’s unfortunate,” said Crystal Swanigan, claims manager for St. Louis-based Powers Insurance, which received around 80 claims related to the flood on Tuesday. Calls are still coming in, she said.

It’s not clear how many Americans have flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Policy, which FEMA manages, has issued more than five million policies and collects about $4.6 billion in annual revenue from policyholders’ premiums, fees and surcharges. It provides over $1.3 trillion in coverage.

Katie Reuther said she didn’t know how she’d cover the cost of new electrical panels and other damage to the basement of her boutique shop 301 Whistle Stop on St. Peters’ Main Street.

She didn’t buy flood insurance on the building because it wasn’t in a floodplain or a flood risk, she said.

“It wasn’t recommended,” she said.

Reporter Katie Kull contributed to this story.

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