bernstein blog

April Showers Bring... Flooded Basements?
April 03, 2014 12:02PM EST

While April showers certainly do bring May flowers, this year’s rain combined with the big thaw from one of the snowiest seasons in state history could also bring something far less pleasant: flooded basements.

Some cities and townships have tried to correct the problem by requiring homeowners to disconnect from the existing footing drains and install sump systems, due in no small part to some recent class-action law suits against cities, but many water-logged communities have yet to fully address the issue.

Michigan Public Act 222 of 2001 affords you the right to seek relief for damages and physical injuries related to a sewage backup in your home. The law requires that if you are seeking compensation for personal injury or damage to your property, you have to prove that there was a defect in the municipal drain system, and that the government knew or should have known of the defect. You will also have to prove that even though the government knew of the defect, it did not fix it in a reasonable amount of time, and that the defect was the cause of the damage or injury.

You have to file your claim in writing within 45 days, and are only entitled to actual damages, not non-economic (pain and suffering, unless there was a death resulting from the event) compensation.

So, what should you do if your basement is flooded? You have to act fast, far faster than you can determine whether or not you can file a claim to be reimbursed for the costs.

The City of Dearborn offered residents some excellent tips to help them cope. Though the city recommends getting a professional service to take care of cleanup, it gave a few tips for those who do their own cleanup, including:

  • Before entering the affected area of the house, find out if there is an electrical or gas hazard
  • Wear protective clothing like rubber boots, gloves and eye protection
  • Only operate a wet vacuum if it is plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter or ground fault equipped outlet
  • If your basement walls are finished with drywall, remove and dispose of it immediately, as they can begin to pose a mold hazard.

And of course, contact your homeowner insurance carrier immediately to see if you have coverage. Unless you purchased extra coverage, you probably do not. Call your agent to discuss your options.

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