Call For Action: Storm Insurance Tips

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PARMA, Ohio -- Tom Ruszkiewicz waded through his Parma basement Tuesday evening as if it was the shallow end of a pond.  He didn't think the water trickling in Monday night would pose much of a problem, especially since he was running a small sump pump.  What he didn't anticipate, however, was losing power to the pump while he and his family slept.

"Found it, probably about a foot and a half deep," he told Fox8 News about his wake up call Tuesday morning.

"Most of the stuff that we had set up off the ground was floating away or was already saturated, so it was just lost," he said.

Even worse, was the phone call he got from his insurance company, "They told me that I am not gonna be covered for any of this."

The problem was most homeowner's policies cover water that falls from the top down, not the bottom up.  If homeowners, like Ruszkiewicz, don't pay extra for an insurance rider that covers water back up, they’re out of luck.  Riders that cover water back up typically cost between $40 and $150, depending on the deductible.

"It's incredibly disheartening," he said of the unwelcome news.

Losing power sometimes means losing what's in the refrigerator or freezer too.  Mary Bonelli from the Ohio Insurance Institute says most homeowner’s policies cover spoilage, but here's the catch; losses may not be enough to cover deductibles.

"It's really there for the big losses, not the $100 items," Bonelli said about insurance coverage.

Policy holders who anticipate making a claim for spoiled food need proof to be successful.  Bonelli recommended they take pictures of everything lost before throwing it out.

Homeowners who’ve experienced wind damage and downed trees can also make the claims process go easier by photographing any problem areas that demand repair before the claims adjuster has had an opportunity to review the property.  Bonelli recommended they keep all receipts so their insurance companies can reimburse.  She also said insurance companies won't hesitate to cover damage from downed trees, regardless of who they belong to, but she warned someone will have to pay the deductible.

"If it was your neighbor's tree and it fell on your house and you have a relationship with your neighbor, you may have that conversation with your neighbor,” she said, “Asking them to cover your deductible, especially if it's $1,000 or more."

It's all good advice, just a little late for homeowners like Ruszkiewicz.

"You work really hard to be able to buy a house and give your family everything you want to and just in a couple of hours most of it is completely trashed or it’s gone."