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The state Department of Banking and Insurance is providing tips for property owners who need to file insurance claims after sustaining damage to their homes or vehicles from Tropical Storm Ida.

The Sept. 1 storm was one of the fiercest to hit New Jersey in years, spawning several tornadoes in South Jersey and inundating the entire state with heavy rain and flash flooding. At least 25 people died in the storm, which also caused widespread power outages and millions of dollars in property damage.

Some property owners may be surprised to learn that a homeowners insurance policy – which protects against damage to the home and other structures like detached garages, storage sheds and fences – excludes water damage caused by a flood. Only a separate flood insurance covers that type of loss.

Personal or commercial automobiles are covered against flood damage if the owner has purchased optional comprehensive coverage (also called “comp” or “other than collision”) as part of their insurance policy. If the vehicle owner purchased a policy with liability-only coverage, their insurance company will not pay for flood damage to their vehicle.

Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride said Thursday New Jersey residents who have sustained property damage from Tropical Storm Ida should contact their insurance company as soon as possible, make note of their claim number, and save any receipts for emergency repairs they need to make (such as boarding up broken windows) before their insurance claims adjuster arrives. Take photos of any damaged property and keep written notes of all conversations with adjusters.

Check with the insurance company before discarding any damaged property, especially business owners, because in most cases the company will require the damaged property to be physically available for inspection.

Policyholders have the option to hire public adjusters, which are licensed by the state, to appraise damage to their property and negotiate their insurance claims. Public adjusters are paid from the proceeds of a policyholder’s claims settlement, typically a percentage of the total amount received. However, a public adjuster is not necessary to file or resolve an insurance claim.

In case of disputes, the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) said it sometimes helps if a homeowner has their contractor speak directly with their insurance company’s claims adjuster. If the matter still cannot be resolved, the policyholder can call DOBI’s consumer hotline at 1-800-446-7467 or file a complaint online on DOBI’s website here.

Information about Flood Insurance. Consumers can purchase a flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or from an insurance company offering private flood insurance. A flood insurance policy takes effect 30 days after it is sold, so consumers should not wait until a storm is approaching to buy flood insurance.

To learn more about emergency preparedness in New Jersey, go the state’s Office of Emergency Preparedness’ website here.