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Call the DFS Disaster Hotline: (800) 339-1759
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
If a federal disaster declaration is issued for a disaster, you can apply to FEMA for disaster assistance. You may apply for this disaster assistance whether you have insurance or not. On September 6, 2021, President Biden approved an expedited major disaster declaration to help eligible New Yorkers recover from the flood damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. As of September 24, 2021, Bronx, Kings, Nassau, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties have been approved for individual assistance, which provides direct relief for individuals and homeowners. We advise you to continue to monitor the FEMA website for updates.
Help for the Undocumented
To get connected with assistance, undocumented New Yorkers who have been impacted by a disaster should call the Office for New Americans (ONA) Hotline at (800) 566-7636 between 9:00am and 8:00pm, Monday through Friday. Hotline assistance is available in over 200 languages.
Governor Hochul previously announced the launch of the new online resource hub for New Yorkers impacted by Hurricane Ida, available at ny.gov/Ida. The hub provides information on available assistance programs and where to find services such as shelter and access to food. Information on the site will be updated as more resources for New Yorkers become available.
Flood and Flood Insurance Information
While floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, insurance coverage for losses from floods is generally not provided in standard homeowners or tenants policies. Insurance for flood damages is generally available under a separate policy issued through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and available to homeowners, renters and businesses.
Filing a Claim After a Loss
- File Claims Promptly. File claims as soon as possible after losses occur.
- Provide All Documentation. Ask your insurance company exactly what documents, forms, and data they will need you to submit.
- Flood Damage Claims. Flood damage is typically only covered by flood insurance, obtained via the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you have flood insurance and have flood damage, file claims with the insurer that sold you the policy. If you purchased a policy directly from NFIP, you should contact them directly.
- Keep Detailed Records. Keep a record of all conversations with your insurer, include the agent’s name and times and dates of all calls.
- Follow Up. Follow up with the Insurer or agent in writing, reflecting your understanding of in-person or telephone conversations. After an adjuster visit, follow up in writing reflecting your understanding of the adjuster visit.
- Document Losses. Take photos and/or videos showing the extent of the damage and losses before cleaning anything up.
- Take Inventory. Provide your insurer with a detailed room-by-room inventory of damaged personal items and property. Include receipts, credit card statements and any other documents showing item values.
- Emergency Repairs. Property owners are responsible for protecting their property from further damage after a loss, but should make only repairs necessary to prevent further damage to property, like covering broken windows. Save receipts showing emergency repairs.
- Permanent Repairs. Permanent repairs should not be made until insurers have inspected losses. All damaged personal property should be kept until an insurance settlement has been reached.
- If You Relocate, Keep Your Receipts. If you need to relocate while your home is being repaired, keep records of your expenses. Homeowner and renter insurance policies generally cover the cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged by an insured disaster.
- Disaster Assistance. When a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance is made, FEMA disaster assistance may be available to both insured and uninsured individuals and businesses, when settlements may not meet disaster related needs. Reporting damage to local officials does NOT qualify you for FEMA aid. You must contact FEMA directly to sign up for FEMA aid.
- Small Business. FEMA’s Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses, and some nonprofit organizations.
In the event of a natural disaster, insurance companies covering homes or businesses in the areas affected by the disaster are expected to:
- Increase their resources to ensure proper treatment of their policyholders;
- Allow claimants to make immediate repairs to damaged property if necessary to protect health or safety;
- Allow claimants to provide as reasonable proof items such as photographs or video recordings (without the need for a physical inspection), material samples (if applicable), inventories, and receipts for any repairs to or replacement of property;
- Along with their third-party adjusters, promptly assess claims;
- Provide affected policyholders with fair and equitable claim settlement treatment under the New York Insurance Law and Regulations;
- Cover claims caused by multiple perils even if not all perils are covered under the applicable policy; and
- Make timely payments of claims that arise out of covered perils.
These obligations also apply to those insurance companies that issued policies through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
Contact Your Insurer. Your insurer may be on our list of the largest Property/Casualty Insurers in New York. This list includes local and toll-free phone numbers that you can call, and websites you can access, to ask questions or report claims.
Adjusters, Appraisers & Umpires
After you declare a loss, an adjuster will be sent by your insurance company to examine damage and provide an estimate of the cost of repair or replacement. If you reach an impasse in negotiating a settlement with your insurance company, you may want to consult an attorney or hire a licensed public adjuster to act on your behalf. If an agreement cannot be reached, your policy provides for an appraisal process. Every homeowner, tenant, cooperative apartment and condominium policy issued in New York contains a provision for you and your company to select a competent and disinterested appraiser. Your insurer will select one as well. The two appraisers, in turn, select an umpire.
After you declare a loss, an adjuster will be sent by your insurance company to examine the damage and give you an estimate of the cost of repair or replacement.
You may also get an estimate from your own contractor to compare with the insurance company’s estimate. If you need assistance, your insurance agent or broker may be able to help you fill out a claim form, gather necessary documents and materials, and provide very general guidance, but it is up to you to prove your loss to the insurance company.
If you experience a major loss such as a fire or severe windstorm which badly damages or destroys your home, and you reach an impasse in negotiating a settlement with your insurance company, you may want to consult an attorney or hire a licensed public adjuster to act on your behalf with your insurance company.
While most property claims can be resolved by dealing with your insurer and the the assigned adjuster directly, sometimes a consumer or business owner will decide that they prefer that someone else handle the insurance claim on their behalf.
In New York, public adjusters are licensed by the Department of Financial Services. When you hire a public adjuster, they represent you, not the insurance company. They will generally help you to take inventory of your loss, secure your home from vandalism, contact your insurance company, advise you on the extent of your coverage and help you secure the services needed to repair or rebuild your home. They will also negotiate on your behalf with the adjuster from the insurance company.
Licensed Public Adjusters
In order to do business in New York, Public Adjusters must be licensed by the Department of Financial Services. The "Who We Supervise App" on the DFS Portal can help you find a Public Adjuster:
Public adjusters are paid by you, not the insurance company. The amount of the public adjuster’s fee is usually expressed as a percentage of the amount they recover and is negotiable, but by law may not be higher than 12.5% of the recovery amount. The adjuster must obtain a signed compensation agreement from you in which the amount of compensation is clearly stated. The agreement you sign to hire a public adjuster may be cancelled without penalty up to midnight of the third business day after the date on which you have signed the compensation agreement. In addition, public adjusters may not solicit your business between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Keep in mind that if you hire a public adjuster, the insurance company may or may not agree with the estimate of the scope of damage.
The insurer is not obligated to accept the damages claimed by a public adjuster, though the insurer may negotiate. The insurance company is obligated to settle the claim in accordance with the terms and conditions of the policy it issued to the insured. Whatever the outcome of the claim, the consumer remains responsible for the Public Adjuster’s agreed upon fee.
Appraisers and Umpires
If an agreement cannot be reached between you and your insurance company, your policy provides for an appraisal process.
Every homeowner, tenant, cooperative apartment and condominium policy issued in New York contains a provision for you and your company to select a competent and disinterested appraiser. The two appraisers, in turn, select an umpire. Each appraiser must evaluate the loss and determine the value of each item. Any disagreements between the appraisers regarding the value of any items are submitted to and settled by the umpire. The costs of this process are paid by the policyholder and the insurance company.
Note that the appraisal process is not available for disputes involving the cause of the damage.
Protect Your Credit
While assessing property damage, calling your insurance company and applying for disaster assistance may be your top priorities following a disaster, steps to protect your credit should also be taken to keep late payments and debts from hurting your credit and credit score.
Though calling your insurance company and applying for disaster assistance may be your top priorities following a disaster, steps to protect your credit should also be taken to keep late payments and debts from hurting your credit and credit score.
Contact your bank and other creditors. Most banks and lenders have recovery procedures in place for customers impacted by disasters. They may even reach out to let you know they're aware of the of the issue and what they may be doing for customers who are affected. Your creditors may be able to do even more for you if they know about your specific situation, such as payment assistance programs or temporary moratoriums on payment. Each lender is different, so contact all of them. Keep a detailed record of these conversations, and ask for it in writing if your creditor agrees to a major change to your payment agreement.
Add a personal statement to your credit report. You can file a statement with the three credit reporting agencies explaining that you were affected by a disaster and how it may have lowered your credit. This will not affect your credit score, but will let anyone who pulls your report know what happened.
Avoid Storm Recovery Scams
Protect yourself from scam artists who may try to take advantage of homeowners who suffered property damage in a storm, or who may claim to be part of disaster assistance efforts.
Disaster Preparation Tips
Take steps to be ready for the potential damage that severe storms can cause BEFORE they happen.
By doing things like checking your insurance policies, moving valuable objects to upper floors and inspecting any trees on your property before severe weather hits, and making a home inventory, you’ll be better prepared.
Taking photos and video of your home as it is today, as well as keeping sales receipts and the model and serial numbers of items you purchase, will make filing a claim easier. Your insurance provider should be able to provide you with a sample inventory to use or you can use our Home Inventory Checklist (PDF) to help you get started.
Add insurance information to your inventory information - the name of your insurance company and agent, policy numbers and contact information and keep them in a safe dry area.
See our Storm-Preparedness Tips for more steps you should take to help make sure your home is storm ready and your property is adequately insured.
How DFS Can Help
Help with a Bank or Mortgage Issue
DFS works with banks and financial institutions to eliminate excessive fees, prevent foreclosures, and encourage loan and mortgage forbearance for those affected by disasters. We also work to help expedite endorsement of insurance claims checks by banks to homeowners in urgent need of disaster-related repairs. If you are unable to close on a loan or mortgage due to severe weather, we may also be able to help you avoid adverse consequences, such as late fees for changes in the terms.
Help with Insurance
DFS can answer questions about agents, brokers and adjustors, the claims process (including hurricane and wind deductibles), policy cancellation, non-renewal, and coverage for additional living expenses (which you may be entitled to if you are displaced after a disaster). If your business has been affected by a disaster, we can also answer questions about coverage, business interruption insurance and off-premises service interruption coverage.
Print a Brochure
DFS has developed printable brochures including Storm Recovery Resources and Beware of Home Repair Scams. Find these and other publications on our Consumer Brochures and Publications page. Please print and share them at your event or with your constituents.
Disaster & Flood FAQs
I have homeowners’ or renter’s insurance. Will it cover flood damage?
The typical homeowners’ or renter’s policy does not cover flood damage. However, you may have coverage if you purchased either a rider (called an “endorsement”) that amended your policy to cover water back-up and sewage damage, or a separate policy issued through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program. You may also want to consider whether the damage was caused by wind, which is more likely to be covered under a standard homeowners’ or renter’s policy.
Sewage entered my home. I do not have flood insurance but my policy covers sewage damage. Will it cover the damage to my home or property?
A homeowners’ or renter’s insurance policy may cover water back-up and sewage damage (for example, by endorsement), but typically excludes insurance claims where the back-up and sewage damage is caused by flood.
My car was damaged by the flooding. Will my auto insurance cover the damage?
Standard auto insurance policies typically cover flood and mudslide claims if you have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage – sometimes referred to as “other than collision” coverage – helps pay for losses that occur if your vehicle is damaged in an accident that is not a collision. This coverage will also normally provide coverage if a car is damaged due to falling objects, such as trees blown down by the wind.
If my policy does not cover flood damage, should I file a claim?
If you have a good faith basis to believe that the policy covers your claim, you should always file a claim. For example, this might be the case if you believe that your losses were not principally caused by flooding. If the carrier denies the claim, it should provide a reason for the denial that is supported by the language in the policy.
I have flood damage and it is covered by my policy. How do I file a claim?
File your claim with the insurer that sold you the policy by following the instructions in the policy. If you need assistance, your broker or the insurer’s agent may be able to help you fill out a claim form, gather necessary documents and materials, and provide general guidance. If you purchased a policy directly from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), follow the steps listed on the NFIP’s website to begin filing your flood claim.
Make sure to document your losses before cleaning anything up and file your claim as soon as possible after the losses occur. Provide all documentation requested by the insurance company, including a detailed inventory of damaged personal items and property as well as receipts, credit card statements, and other documents showing their value. Inform the insurance company of any new information that affects the claim as soon as possible after you receive it. Keep a record of all conversations with your insurer and follow up with the insurer, broker, or agent in writing.
I filed a claim with my insurer. What happens next?
After you file a claim, an adjuster will likely be sent by your insurance company to examine the damage and provide an estimate of the cost of repair or replacement. You may also get an estimate from your own contractor to compare with the insurance company’s estimate. If you need assistance, your broker or the insurer’s agent may be able to help you fill out a claim form, gather necessary documents and materials, and provide general guidance, but it is your responsibility to prove your loss to the insurance company.
How long do I have to wait to make repairs? Can I throw away damaged furniture, appliances, etc.? Can I remove things like wet sheetrock or rugs that might lead to mold?
Property owners are responsible for protecting their property from further damage after a loss, but should only make repairs that are necessary to protect health or safety, such as the removal of water-logged sheetrock or rugs, or to prevent further damage to property, like covering broken windows. Document your losses before cleaning anything up, including through photos and/or videos that show the extent of the damage, and save all receipts showing emergency repairs.
Permanent repairs should not be made until your insurer has inspected losses. All damaged personal property should be kept until an insurance settlement has been reached.
FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program offers tips on how to document your flood damage and start clean-up on its website.
My home got flooded and is uninhabitable. I can stay with a relative/friend/neighbor but only for a few days and cannot afford to go to a hotel unless I know I will be reimbursed. What should I do?
Homeowners’ and renter’s insurance policies generally cover the cost of additional living expenses if you are forced out of your home due to a disaster or peril that is covered under the policy. However, flood damage is typically not covered under a standard homeowners’ or renter’s policy (see the answer to Q1).
Check your insurance policy to confirm the coverage and the terms and conditions around the benefits, including the amounts payable and the length of time that the benefit might be paid. If you intend to submit a claim under your policy, document the facts surrounding the determination that the home is uninhabitable or unsafe, including who made the determination and photos or videos of the damage supporting your assertion that the home is uninhabitable. If you need to relocate while your home is being repaired, keep records of your expenses.
Contact your insurer as soon as possible through your broker or the insurer’s agent to reach an agreement on how your claim for living expenses will be handled.
I just paid my September rent but my apartment is uninhabitable. Can I get my September rent back and refuse to pay my rent until I can move in again? Can I terminate the lease if I cannot move back in quickly?
The answers to those questions depend on the terms of your lease. You should check your lease. Questions regarding your rights under a lease agreement should be addressed by a legal expert. If you cannot afford one, you may wish to contact the Legal Aid Society or a bar association for pro bono assistance.
I tried contacting my insurer but I am not able to get through to anyone. What should I do?
Confirm that you have the correct contact information for the insurance company by checking your insurance policy. If you are contacting the insurer and not getting a response, try contacting your broker or the insurance agent if one was involved in the purchase of the policy. Document your efforts and make sure to note who you tried to contact and when. If you are still having trouble, you can file a complaint on the New York State Department of Financial Services website.
What if my insurer refuses to cover my claim, or agrees to cover my claim but I disagree with the amount of the damage?
Review the terms and conditions of your insurance policy. If your insurer denies the claim, it should provide a reason for the denial that is supported by the language in the policy. If the insurer refuses to cover the claim and you think that is wrong, you can file a complaint on the DFS website and/or seek legal assistance.
If there is coverage under your homeowners’ or renter’s policy and an agreement cannot be reached regarding the amount of the loss, your policy provides for an appraisal process to resolve these disputes. You may also want to consult an attorney or hire a licensed public adjuster to act on your behalf.
For policies issued by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), there is an appeal process if your claim is denied. Follow the steps listed on the NFIP website if you receive a claim denial.
I have a mortgage on my home. Repairs could cost more than the balance on my loan and I do not know how much money, if any, I will get from my insurer. What should I do?
Check your loan documents and/or contact your bank. In cases where there is a mortgage, it is common for the bank to also be endorsed on any check from the insurer providing benefit payments or to be the sole payee on the check. Ultimately, you should reach an agreement with your bank on the use of the policy proceeds.
I am having trouble making payments because of the cost of repairing or replacing my damaged property. What steps can I take to protect my credit score?
Contact your bank and other creditors to see if they have recovery procedures in place for customers impacted by disasters. They may even reach out to let you know that they are aware of the issue and taking steps to assist customers who are affected. If they know about your specific situation, they may offer payment assistance programs or temporary moratoriums on payment. Keep a detailed record of these conversations and, if a creditor agrees to modify your payment agreement, ask for it in writing.
You can also file a statement with the three credit reporting agencies explaining that you were affected by a disaster and how it may have lowered your credit. This will not affect your credit score but will let anyone who pulls your report know what happened.
Can I apply to FEMA for disaster assistance? If so, how?
If a federal disaster declaration for individual assistance is issued, you can apply to FEMA for disaster assistance. Assistance for losses may include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help recover from the effects of the disaster. Even those with insurance may be eligible for help from FEMA if their policy does not cover all their needs.
On September 6, 2021, President Biden approved an expedited major disaster declaration to help eligible New Yorkers recover from the flood damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. As of September 24, 2021, Bronx, Kings, Nassau, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties have been approved for individual assistance, which provides direct relief for individuals and homeowners. As the status of FEMA assistance is evolving, we advise you to monitor the FEMA website for updates. The DFS website provides information on how to apply for FEMA assistance and also includes a link to a useful brochure on FEMA’s website called “Help After a Disaster” that is available in 27 languages.
I operate a business from my home that will need to shut down while I make repairs. Is there special assistance for business owners?
Homeowners’ or renter’s policies generally do not cover losses suffered by a business. However, policies that are related to the business – such as a business owner’s policy that includes business interruption insurance – might provide coverage. Check all applicable insurance policies to confirm the coverage and contact your broker or the carrier’s agent if one was involved in the purchase of any of the policies.
You should also consider other sources of financial assistance, such as low-interest disaster loans offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help businesses and homeowners recover from declared disasters.
Questions and Complaints
Have questions or a problem that you cannot resolve with your Insurer or Bank? Call our Consumer Hotline at (800) 342-3736. Local calls can be made to (212) 480-6400 or (518) 474-6600 or learn how to file a complaint with DFS.