Midlands Family Had Flood Insurance, But Their Home Is Still In Shambles

The historic flood was almost two years ago but one Midlands family says they still don't recognize their home.

Forest Acres, S.C. (WLTX) - The historic flood of 2015 was over a year and a half ago, but many feel like they're still drowning. One Midlands family says they don't recognize their home. They thought that they would be okay because they bought flood insurance, but they only received a fraction of what they say they needed.

"I got up and just kind of started watching the water coming in because at that point there is nothing that you can do. That's the worst part about a flood. You can't stop it. All you can do is watch it," Tara Sautner said.

She says she thought everything was going to be okay because she was covered.

"We had flood insurance. We have flood insurance. We still have flood insurance. We still pay all of this money for flood insurance," Sautner said.

Every month Sautner and her husband paid to ensure that Lakeland Drive home in Forest Acres would be protected after a flood.

She said they took out a $157,000 flood insurance policy through American Banker's Insurance of Florida.

"With all of the estimates and everything.  It was about a little over $80,000. We were given a little over thirty (thousand dollars)," she said.

That's 37.5 percent of what she says they needed.

According to the insurance company's denial letter, the flood didn't cause the structural damage. The insurance company said long-term settlement pre-existed before the flood.

"In the engineering report they said that when the beam underneath the house moved that it didn't cause any structural damage however we were in here when it happened and you could feel the floor kind of sink and we got a crack in our wall and in the tile and then this counter is no longer attached and I just don't understand how you can say there is no structural damage when we were in here and we watched it happen," she said.

Sautner appealed and said that she tried working with the company.

"Eventually they just stop answering the phone around August of last year," she said.

News 19 reached out to Assurant, the parent company of American Bankers Insurance of Florida. The company denied our request for an interview.

In a statement they said, "This claim was reviewed and paid in accordance with the terms of the policy.  We would respectfully decline to comment further at this time, as the matter is in litigation."

So why weren't they covered?

"Flood insurance is not meant to be complete insurance," Robert Hartwig said. "This is not necessarily unusual, particularly with structures that have been in existence for a period of time."

Hartwig has spent over 25 years in private insurance. He now teaches at the Moore School of Business and said the program is not run like homeowner’s insurance.

"It is a government subsidized flood insurance program. Taxpayers in North Dakota are subsidizing people in South Carolina who live in flood zones as are taxpayers in general. All of this data and information are supplied to the National Insurance Program who ultimately has the thumbs up or thumbs down as to what is going to be paid and what is not going to be paid."

With no where left to turn, Sautner said she is taking the company to court, which is not an uncommon practice.

According to CBS News, in the years following Hurricane Sandy a federal investigation lead to the reopening of more than 144,000 closed Sandy flood claims and many involved initial denials due to long-term settlement that pre-existed before the flood.

"I don't think we are ever going to get it back to where it was," Sautner said.

Sautner said that she and her husband were also denied FEMA grants and loans including loans from the Small Business Administration. She said that they were denied because they had flood insurance.

They are currently in the process of court proceedings.

Flood Insurance Resources: FEMA, Flood Insurance Rate Maps for the City of Columbia, Floodplain Mapping and Local Hazards within Richland County

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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