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Catastrophic House Flood Shows Importance of Renters' Insurance

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Ryndon Ricks
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Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde says a housing disaster in Cortez on Monday demonstrates the pitfalls of not having renters’ insurance.

A  young couple renting the downstairs portion of a two-story house was left homeless when a water pipe broke upstairs while no one was home and flooded the building. The ceiling above the couple’s unit collapsed and all their electronics, clothes and furniture were ruined. While the homeowner’s insurance will pay for structural repairs and his possessions, the couple’s belongings aren’t covered. Vandevoorde says it’s a situation he encounters regularly, especially with fires in rental properties. He says a trailer-park fire can easily sweep through two or three trailers at once, destroying everything the occupants own. Few renters carry insurance because they mistakenly believe the homeowner’s will cover them. Furthermore, there is no Red Cross office to help displaced people in either Cortez or Durango. Vandevoorde says victims’-advocate services focus on crime, the Salvation Army doesn’t provide motel vouchers, and the local Housing Authority has nothing currently available. He says, “I don’t know how you start over when you don’t have any money,” adding that he gave the couple some cash just so they could get a meal and wash the clothes they were wearing. The chief says such insurance is relatively inexpensive, but advises renters to make sure it covers both fire and water damage.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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