In Dunlap v. Empire Trading Group, LLC, the buyers of a home sued the seller and the seller’s real estate agent for fraud after the home flooded three times in the first year after they bought the home. The seller was a home-flipper who disclosed two prior flooding incidents, both of which occurred during the ten months the seller owned the home.
However, the plaintiffs later discovered the home had a substantial flooding history when they requested a flood insurance quote from the National Flood Insurance Program. The quote included a report that identified eighteen incidents of flooding and flood insurance claims at the property over the ten years before the plaintiffs purchased their home.
The plaintiffs argued the seller’s agent committed fraud because she concealed her knowledge of previous flood claims. The seller’s agent moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs could not prove that she knew about any of the prior undisclosed flooding incidents. The plaintiffs had no direct evidence to dispute the agent’s defense.
Instead, they argued that circumstantial evidence was sufficient to defeat the motion. They claimed that because the seller had a flood policy on the home, it also would have received the same flood claim history the plaintiffs received in connection with the same federal program. However, the plaintiffs had no evidence to show the seller, or anyone affiliated with the agent’s firm, actually received the flood claim history as they alleged.
Based upon these facts, the court agreed that without evidence that the seller’s agent actually received the flood claim history or otherwise had knowledge of it, the plaintiffs could not carry their burden of proving misrepresentation by the agent.
Case Reference: Dunlap v. Empire Trading Group, LLC, 2021-0180 (La. App. 1 Cir. 10/18/21), 331 So. 3d 932.
Unfortunately, recent flooding and storm events have again affected our area in Louisiana. Many people experienced flooding and storm damage to their homes and businesses. If you experienced flood or storm damage, please consider following these steps to ensure your damage claim is properly documented and submitted:
DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT – Once you are able, make sure to document the damages to your home and contents. Whether for a homeowners or flood insurance policy or to obtain government assistance, take plenty of photos and video of the damage. Make a list of the items that were damaged or destroyed. One way to organize this list is to group items from each room together, approximate its age, where it was purchased, and its value when purchased. It will be more difficult to document your claim once the cleanup or rebuilding begins.
OBTAIN MULTIPLE ESTIMATES -To the extent you are able, obtain multiple estimates for the work needed on your home. Pay for the estimate if necessary. If you have three estimates and the amounts are close, they are much more credible. Also, try and get as much detail as possible in each estimate, including specific materials to be used, dimensions, and finishes.
NOTIFY YOUR INSURER – Whether a homeowners or flood policy claim, or other insurance claim related to your business, promptly notify your insurer of your damage. Your insurer will send someone to inspect the damage and start your claim. Provide as much information as possible to make their job as easy as possible. That will likely quicken the pace of your claim.
FLOOD CLAIMS – If you have flood insurance, it is likely provided by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). There are specific rules for submitting your claim through the NFIP. YOU MUST SUBMIT FEMA FORM 086-0-11 (NOTICE OF LOSS) WITHIN 120 DAYS OF YOUR DAMAGE. You can find this form here.
Unfortunately, Louisianans (and their property insurers) have endured many natural disasters in the past several years. From the historic flooding in the greater Baton Rouge area in August 2016 to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Gulf Coast residents are all too familiar with significant storms and flooding events. While the rebuilding process will take months or years, this article is designed to provide some basic information on how to document your property claim and apply for and obtain disaster assistance.
DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT – Once able, make sure to document the damages to your home and contents. Whether for a homeowners or flood insurance policy or to obtain government assistance, take plenty of photos and even video of the damage. Make a list of the items in your home that were damaged or destroyed. One way to organize this list is to group items from each room together; approximate the item’s age, where it was purchased, and its value when purchased. If you have receipts, try to salvage them. As you rebuild, and materials and items are thrown out, it will become more difficult to document your claim. Proper documentation will lessen the burden upon your insurer’s claims handlers and adjusters and may speed the processing of your claim. A lack of documentation may require the insurer to investigate longer and result in delay.
OBTAIN MULTIPLE ESTIMATES – Although the volume of work and distractions which follow a natural disaster make this difficult, try to obtain estimates for the work needed on your home. Pay for the estimate, if necessary. If you have three estimates and the amounts are close, they are more credible. Also, try and get as much detail as possible in each estimate, including specific materials to be used, dimensions, and finishes. Your insurer is looking to determine the true amount of the loss and thorough estimates help to define your claim.
APPLY FOR ASSISTANCE – Especially if your property is not insured, make sure to immediately apply for government assistance. You can apply for federal assistance at disasterassistance.gov. Oftentimes, the state government will also administer federal and state disaster assistance funds.
Recovering after a disaster may not be a quick or easy process, but spending more time and effort initially may ultimately save you time and allow you to present a claim your insurer will agree to pay.
“Disaster Declaration” Expanded. The list of parishes now declared disaster areas by the federal government has increased to include the following parishes: Acadia, Ascension, East Feliciana, Iberia, Lafayette, Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, and Vermilion.
Potential Tax Implications for Flood Victim. For those insured, it is critical that you document your losses with as much detail as possible; serial numbers, make/model/description—the more detail the better. Keep receipts and credit card statements. Time-dated photos are also important. Even those without flood insurance should do the same as it may assist in obtaining FEMA assistance. However, the same documentation of your losses could also help to reduce your tax exposure. The attached link provides key information and outlines the impact the flooding may have on tax-filing and other deadlines.
Thousands of people are currently dealing with the devastating flooding in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. Here are a few pieces of information that may assist you as you begin to recover from this event: