What Happens If My Car Floods in Underground Parking?

In the age of climate change, flooding is an increasing threat to communities than it has been in earlier decades. Severe weather patterns such as sudden and heavy rainfall and other storms can result in homes and cars being damaged.

The result of climate change or not, a vicious storm can cause considerable damage to your home or vehicle, which highlights the need to take the time to ensure you have adequate home insurance and auto insurance coverage. Many homeowners may assume they have ample insurance protection to deal with a flood. However, whether your property is awash in water because of an overland flood or there’s a sewer back-up, these types of coverages are not typically included in a standard home insurance policy.

If you do have overland flooding and sewer back-up mitigation coverage as part of your homeowner policy, dealing with the misfortune of a flood can be reasonably straightforward. The first step is to call your insurance provider and submit a claim for your dwelling or vehicle. However, sometimes your home and auto insurance intersect in cases such as the belongings in your car, which may be covered by your home insurance rather than your auto policy. But what if your car is flooded while it’s parked in an underground parking lot?

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What Happens If Your Car Is Flooded in an Underground Parking Lot in a Condo Building?

Most condo corporations are in charge of insurance for the building as well as the common areas. Tenants or unit owners typically pay the building’s insurance premium as part of their monthly maintenance fees. Otherwise, condo dwellers should consider either condo insurance (for unit owners) or tenant insurance (for renters) to protect their personal belongings.

Be advised, though, a condo corporation’s insurance policy does not automatically cover the damages to a vehicle parked in an underground lot. Even though the parking garage may be considered common property, the building may not be responsible for your car in the event of flooding.

If a flood damages a car, the claim would be filed with the car owner’s insurance company for repairs. In general, damage to vehicles from wind, hail, or water is usually covered under your auto policy provided you have either comprehensive or all-perils coverage (both of these coverages are optional that you can add to your policy).

If there is damage to the building’s underground parking lot, those damages will be covered by the condo corporation’s master policy.

The Rising Cost of Flood Damage in Canada

Flooding is the most frequent and costliest natural disaster affecting Canadians annually. Whether it is caused by snowmelt runoff, storms, or unexpected flash floods, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) estimates flooding causes more than $1 billion of damage to homes, property, and infrastructure annually.

In recent months, storms and heavy rain have triggered flash floods in urban and rural regions across the country including in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, many prompting communities to evacuate. According to IBC, the most common cause of flood damage is overflowing rivers, which leads to roads being flooded, vehicles submerged in water, as well as flooding basements, sewer backups, roofs leaking and shifting home foundations. IBC has called on the federal government to develop a national flood action plan. Moreover, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction is encouraging the government to update our country’s flood maps.

As it concerns flood damage to a vehicle, IBC says, “Any vehicle that was flooded up to the bottom of the dash must be branded as non-repairable and can no longer be operated on any Canadian road. Every Canadian jurisdiction follows this same guideline.”

What to Do If You Are Caught in Flooded Road Conditions

It’s best to stay off the roads during flood conditions. However, if you do find yourself driving in such a situation, here are a few safety tips to follow:

  • Take alternative routes. You may not be able to gauge the condition of the road or the depth of the water in a flood, and you could risk severely damaging your vehicle.
  • Be on the lookout. Watch for road damage, downed wires and loose objects on the roadway.
  • Avoid flooded areas. Just six inches of water can cause a vehicle’s engine to stall. That could cause significant damage to your car, and you could be stranded in a less than ideal situation.
  • Do not restart your car. If your engine does stall, do not try to restart it. That could cause further damage.
  • Drive slowly. If you have no other choice but to drive through the water, drive slowly to avoid splashing water onto the engine or running the risk of hydroplaning. Moreover, your breaks may not work as expected when wet.
  • Remain calm. If floodwaters were to surround your car, turn on your headlights and hazard lights so emergency crews and other drivers can see you. Get out and make your way to higher ground if it is safe to do so. If it’s unsafe, climb onto the roof of your car and dial 9-1-1 for help.
  • Get a vehicle inspection. If you have driven through water or suspect your vehicle may have water damage, have a mechanic inspect your vehicle.

For additional tips, IBC’s “Think, Don’t Sink: Beware of Flooded Vehicles” is a worthwhile read.

Taking the time to ensure you have adequate auto insurance and home insurance coverage to safeguard your vehicle and property from the threat of flood damage is of the utmost importance.

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