Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 2, 2013

Property losses should be documented

By Joyce M. Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — All city residents who suffered property damages due to the June 28 rain storm should take care to catalog their losses for insurance purposes and, possibly, federal reimbursement.

After the flash flooding that struck in all four quadrants of the city last week, residents' primary line of defense against property losses will be homeowners' or renters' insurance.

Most policies don't cover flood damage — flood insurance is a specialty product offered only by the federal government — but according to Mary Murphy of Murphy Insurance Co., Pine Street, special riders on homeowners' insurance policies, covering damages due to sewer backups and sump pump failures, are increasingly prevalent in the industry.

Among her customers, she said, "more have it than do not."

Any property owner who suffered losses due to the storm should get in touch with their homeowners' or renters' insurance provider as soon as possible to learn what losses may or may not be covered, Murphy said.

And before hauling water-damaged stuff out to the curb for trash pickup, be sure to list and photograph the items first, Murphy said. That'll help validate loss claims.

"We're telling (customers) to start cleanup as soon as possible, to prevent mold, and as they're doing that, to list and photograph everything that's been damaged, everything they're throwing away," she said.

The City of Lockport is encouraging property owners to file notices of claim with the City Clerk, to help create a record in the event the Federal Emergency Management Agency approves disaster aid to private property owners. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday pledged his effort to help persuade F.E.M.A. to sign off on such Individual Assistance.

A notice of claim is a written document listing property losses and approximating repair or replacement values.

According to City Attorney John Ottaviano, the notice should include: the name, address and telephone number of the claimaint; the name, address and telephone number of the owner of property where losses occurred; the date, location and reason for loss (such as basement flooded, sewer backed up, etc.); and any available proof of losses, such as photographs, copies of receipts, contractors' repair estimates and/or a police report if one was filed.

The document must be signed and dated by the claimant, notarized and delivered to the City Clerk's office only, Ottaviano said.

New York State Lt. Governor Robert Duffy said a state/federal "Individual Assessment" team will be dispatched to Lockport next week to look in on flood-damaged residential and commercial properties. Notices of claim will help the city inform the team where to look, Mayor Michael Tucker said.

Disaster aid for private property owners is not routine or guaranteed, but Tucker appealed successfully to the state to OK at least a preliminary look at the claims.

"We're doing our best to make sure everybody's taken care of," he pledged in a rare public address ahead of Tuesday night's Common Council business meeting.