Flood insurance was ‘no-brainer’ for disaster-stricken Georgia couple
This is the second in a series of stories about how American homeowners recovered from four types of natural disasters and what they learned from the experience.
Homeowner: Janet Taylor
City: Austell, Georgia
Disaster: Floods (2005 and 2009)
Janet Taylor had grown up in the ranch house she shared with her husband, Norman. She’d never been through a flood. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Dennis whipped up rainstorms that flooded their home. The couple didn’t live in a flood zone and didn’t have flood insurance.
“I was sick – just devastated,” Janet Taylor recalls.
The couple borrowed $60,000, got some donated building materials and repaired the damage to their home. Like all standard home insurance policies, the Taylors’ policy didn’t cover flood damage. But after what happened with Hurricane Dennis, “it was a no-brainer” to buy a separate flood insurance policy, Taylor says.
Four years later, disaster struck again. One weekend in September 2009, the Atlanta area got hit by several days of torrential rain. That Monday morning, Taylor woke up, turned on the porch light and looked outside toward the horse pasture. The water had almost reached the house and was rising several feet an hour.
Thinking back to the first flood, Taylor grabbed her jewelry, makeup and some clothes. In the 2005 disaster, she temporarily lost her wedding ring – her husband dove into the water to retrieve it – and didn’t have work clothes to wear for weeks. After gathering up belongings the second time around, she and her husband drove to her mother’s house. They later called a neighbor, who gave them bad news.
“I’m sorry, I can’t even see your house – it’s totally submerged,” the neighbor said.
A few days later, the couple got into a rubber raft and paddled to their house. The roof had collapsed, and they were overwhelmed by the stench of dead fish. “But when we left, we knew it was OK because we had insurance this time,” she says.
The Taylors had about $170,000 in flood insurance for the house itself plus about $60,000 for the contents. They replaced their lawnmower, dishes, towels and other possessions. The Taylors used much of the rest of the money to pay off their mortgage, including the second mortgage they had taken out after the first flood. They then took out a loan to have a smaller modular home built on a different – and much higher – part of their property. They now pay $400 a year for flood insurance.
“The insurance company paid off the mortgage quick and gave us a big chunk of the contents money upfront,” Taylor says.
The couple has coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program, the country’s primary provider of home insurance. Taylor recommends homeowners look into buying flood insurance. In the 2009 flood, Taylor says, hundreds of homes were lost in her area, and many of them were not in a flood zone.
“Even if you think you’re not in the way of the water, you’d better rethink it because you never know,” she says.
Amy Bach, executive director of consumer advocacy and education group United Policyholders, says: “Flood insurance is still relatively affordable in most parts of the country. That may change, so it’s not a bad idea to consider buying it now.”
Insurance lesson learned
Make sure you consider buying flood insurance, even if you think you don’t need it. Standard home insurance policies don’t cover flood damage.