October marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which left thousands of New York City apartment dwellers in the dark for days, displaced many for weeks or months, and instantly made flood zone classification as important to some apartment seekers as proximity to transportation and decent grocery stores.
"Sandy was the type of event that had not happened in this area in several generations," says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage. "It was a wake-up call to how vulnerable we can be even in areas you don't expect to be impacted much by weather, like Manhattan. It makes reassessing your insurance coverage and personal safety a necessity."
1. Get insurance--if you can
In a hurricane or tropical storm, almost all property damage is caused either by wind or rising waters.
Ordinary renter’s, co-op and condo insurance covers wind damage—for instance, flying debris that smashes into your window, or rain coming in through a gash opened in your wall or roof by the wind, says Schneider. Regular insurance also covers limited damage caused by storm and/or flood-related power outages.
“After Sandy, most insurers paid up to around $500 for refrigerated or frozen food that was spoiled when power was out,” says Schneider. Insurers also picked up the tab for damage inflicted when the power was restored, when scattered power surges burned out some computers, refrigerators and flat screen tv’s.
Apartment insurance does not cover damage from rising groundwaters—that is, river or ocean waters rising, or an increase in the watertable from flood waters.
“If you rent an apartment or own a co-op in areas where flood is a concern, you need to buy flood insurance,” say Schneider. “Unfortunately, flood insurance is not a cure -all. It generally does not provide coverage for contents below-grade [partially below street level] apartments.”
If you are in a lower-floor apartment, flood coverage is often available from about $250 per year and up for your contents, says Schneider.
"Coverage on the improvements to a co-op or condo would often be purchased by the building, but very specific rules apply, so check with your insurance broker and managing agent," he says.
If you live in a condo building that’s located in a flood zone, it is preferable that you get your flood insurance through the building's master flood policy, says Schneider. Check with your property manager.
2. Make friends on high ground
After Sandy, thousands of residents were displaced for weeks or months after basement flooding ruined essential building equipment, rendering the buildings uninhabitable.
While most insurance policies—including flood insurance—do not reimburse for the cost of alternative housing in this situation, some higher-end insurance companies such as Chubb paid for up to 30 days of comparable alternative lodging when the city deemed a building uninhabitable, says Schneider.
Moral of the story: If you live in an area prone to floods—even if you’re on the 30th floor--you may want to reserve just-in-case crash rights with a friend or family member on higher ground, or buy top-of-the-line apartment insurance.
3. Re-assess your storage strategy
Insurance won’t cover flood damage to your belongings that are stored in the basement of your building, so don’t leave anything there you can’t afford to replace or will regret losing.
In an odd loophole, however, some policies will cover flood damage to belongings stored at off-site storage facilities up to the contents limit of your insurance policy, says Schneider.
Gotham Brokerage Co., Inc., an insurance brokerage, has been serving NYC renters, co-op and condo owners for over 45 years. For a free quote, click on over to Gotham Brokerage or give them a call at 212-406-7300.
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