Few in Cape Breton expected torrential rains but they got them and the accompanying floods, leaving many now struggling with what to do with water-damaged homes.

If your home has flooded, the first thing to do is report the damage immediately to your insurance company or broker, according to Amanda Dean with the Atlantic office of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

"Get that information on record," Dean told CBC News. "Your claim is typically opened as soon as you make that first call."

Determine if your policy covers flooding

House insurance covers wind damage where a branch breaks off and damages the roof or goes through a window, Dean said, but when it comes to water damage it can be a different story.

Coverage depends on how water entered the home. If it's through a backed up sewer, floor drains, tub, sinks or toilet, and you previously purchased sewer backup coverage, you will likely be reimbursed. But if you don't have that additional coverage, you're on your own.

As for flood damage where water pours in through the door or basement windows, it's only been in the last 18 months that some insurance companies in Nova Scotia started offering "extended water coverage." The exact coverage varies from company to company.

Document, document, document

List and photograph everything in the home that was damaged or destroyed. If your insurance does provide coverage, this information will be essential in determining how much your policy will pay.

"It will make the claims process that much smoother, especially around some of the items you may have lost due to damage," Dean said.

She advises taking pictures of where water levels reached in your home. "That will help streamline the process and help the adjuster who is working on your file," she said.

Are expenses covered?

If your home has sewage or furnace oil damage, it's important you stress the significance of the damage to your insurance company.

Ask if your policy covers living expenses. Your insurance agent can tell you whether there's coverage for hotels and food and for how long.

For people living in apartments or renting a home, if they have tenant's insurance they will likely be covered, but without it they are out of luck.

No insurance, no options

Some homeowners who have paid off their mortgage cancel their insurance. If you have no insurance, at this point you have no option but to pay for the repairs yourself.

Dean called those situations "heartbreaking."

What about your car?

Regular car insurance, required in order to operate a motor vehicle, does not cover floods so additional insurance is needed.

"If you have [added] comprehensive or all perils coverage you typically will be covered for wind damage or flood water damage," Dean said.