June 11, 2002                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

State Auditor offers information on flood claims

      Heavy rain and snowfall along the Rocky Mountain Front and in northern Montana have brought much-needed moisture to northcentral Montana, so much so that in several places they also have brought flood warnings. Twenty to thirty homes reportedly have flood damage in Hill County.
      State Auditor John Morrison encouraged Montanans today to review their homeowner insurance policies to determine if they have flood insurance and offered advice on filing claims.
      "Homeowners policies generally do not cover flood damage," said Morrison, Montana's Insurance Commissioner. "Your first step should be to review your policy and determine whether you have coverage."
      Flood coverage typically is offered only through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is available to residents who live in communities that participate in the program. The federal government backs the program, but private-sector insurance companies and agents licensed in Montana can sell the insurance.
      If you previously bought this coverage through your agent, you can contact the agent about handling the claim. If you bought the coverage directly from the program, you should call the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-638-6620.
      The National Flood Insurance Program generally covers damage to the insured structure and the contents within. Some debris removal typically is covered. However, the National Flood Insurance Program usually does not cover damage to lawns or landscaping.
      Federal flood insurance protects homes, condominiums, apartments and nonresidential buildings including commercial structures. The policies become effective 30 days after a person applies and pays the premium, precluding property owners from waiting until the last minute to buy flood insurance.
      "If you don't have flood insurance it may be too late to provide coverage to your property this year," Morrison said. "But it's a good time to review your coverage and make sure you have all the protections your family needs."
      You can buy federal flood insurance regardless of whether you live in a high-risk or low-risk area, but only if your community participates in the federal program. The program has a special policy available for as little as $80 per year, for residential properties located in low to moderate flood-risk zones.
      If you would like additional information on the types of property that are insured under the federal program or limits on the available amounts of insurance, contact your insurance agent or the National Flood Insurance Program.
      If you have any questions or concerns regarding your insurance claim, call State Auditor John Morrison's Office at 1-800-332-6148.