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Utahns will have to pay for flood cleanup, insurance won't cover it

Posted at 10:13 PM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 00:19:15-04

Many Utahns are finding out when it's too late: Their insurance doesn't cover catastrophic events like flash floods.

This information is coming to light only after floods buried basements of hundreds of homes and apartment buildings in Iron County and other parts of the state.

READ: Enoch community comes together to clean up following devastating flooding

For Clint Chaston, the flooding in his Enoch basement Sunday came from the inside.

"It's all coming in through the sewer," he said as he filmed brown water bubbling from the tub overflow drain. Half the tub was already filled with murky muck in the video.

Another video showed the situation with Chaston's toilet, which was even worse.

"It was a fountain coming out of the toilet," he recounted.

The water truly did sound like a fountain rushing from the toilet to the ground. A fountain of... well, one can fill-in-the-blank.

Chaston's two teens have their rooms in the basement. Those were heavily damaged. So was every other room, with brown water everywhere.

WATCH: 200 SUU students displaced from flooding; Iron County declares emergency

Because it seemed that the Enoch City sewer system backing up was the clear issue, Chaston thought insurance would cover the damage. He said he's seen friends experience septic system backups, and insurance covered the cost of repairs.

But when Chaston called his insurance company Monday, he'd find out his sewer backup slipped into a loophole.

"He told me that because the flood caused the sewer to back up, it’s still technically flood water, not sewer problems," Chaston explained. "So had it just been a sewer backup, they would have covered it. But since it’s not, we're in the same boat as everybody else."

It's the boat that Emma Hatch has been in since last week, after Hatch and her partner's basement apartment filled with several feet of mud and gunk in Cedar City.

WATCH: SLC's iconic East High School damaged by flooding

Hatch explained that she bought renter's insurance a while ago, after her aunt experienced a flash flood in St. George last year.

"I even called the insurance company," Hatch recalled, saying that she told the company, "'This is why I'm getting this renter's insurance. Will I be okay?' And they said, 'Yes, absolutely.'"

Apparently, that wasn't the case.

Hatch found this out as she was standing outside University West Apartments, looking at how the flood destroyed everything she owns.

"They just were like, 'You know, you don’t have any natural disaster policy on your insurance. So, sorry,'" she said, relaying what the agent told her.

The cost to replace it all will cascade down to her.

Creed Anderson with ASA Insurance said he's been taking calls of people asking what's covered in their insurance policies considering the recent floods. While he described how every insurance company is different in the details of what each company offers, their company doesn't include flood insurance with regular policies.

"Wind is covered, rain is covered, different acts of God are covered," he said. "It's just those acts of God are not covered."

READ: Thousands lose power after major flash flooding across Utah

He said there are a lot of misconceptions about what's covered and what's not when it comes to flooding.

For example, water damage is covered but flood damage is not -- and there's a difference.

"There's water damage like a pipe breaking... typically is covered on homeowner's insurance," Anderson said. "But flood insurance or surface water coming into your house is not covered."

Anderson said that flood insurance is completely separate to purchase. Unless someone lives in a flood zone, he said most people don't buy it because it's expensive.

"Unless it’s required by your mortgage company, it’s optional. And not many people want to pay extra for insurance if they don’t have to," he said.

When it comes to renter's insurance policies, Anderson said typically a landlord would need to purchase it.

His advice: Call your agent to see what is and isn't covered. He said people can also call around to inquire about flood insurance.

For those people who have already been hit by flooding and it's too late, he suggested calling the insurance company because they can sometimes get their customers discounts on hiring companies to clean up.

Hatch and Chaston offered their own two cents as well, having just gone through this situation personally.

"Number one: Do your research," Hatch urged. She said to read the details and know everything about the policy.

Chaston said his agent told him their flood insurance doesn't cover basements, so it likely wouldn't have helped his case.

"They don't cover a lot," he said. "Read the fine print. See what they do cover, and go from there."