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Flood Insurance Information
Floodwaters have the power to damage not only your home and sense of security, but also your financial future, so make sure you understand your risks and options before making any decisions.
Who should worry about flooding?
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, over 20% of claims come from areas outside high-risk flood zones. It's not just hurricanes and heavy rains that cause a flood. Thawing during the spring can also create problems.
Because floods are not typically covered by homeowner's or renter's insurance policies, everyone should assess their risks and determine if they need coverage. Flood insurance is available to homeowners and to those who are renting.
Those in high risk areas should think long and hard about flood insurance. Flood insurance is legally required if you have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender and live in a high risk zone. The chances of a flood event are significant. For example, if you live in Zone A (a high risk zone), you have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30‐year mortgage.
How expensive can flooding be?
Just two inches of water costs a one-story, 1,000 square foot home $10,889. A one-story home with 2,500 square footage would suffer over $24,000 with three inches of water, ignoring loss of personal property (see here).
Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was the second most significant flood event as determined by National Flood Insurance Program payouts. Over 130,000 losses were paid and the average amount was over $ 66,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (see here).
How can you determine your level of risk?
One smart step you can take is to determine your level of risk. You can do this by identifying if you live in a flood zone. Enter your address into FEMA's Flood Map Service Center. Each flood zone has its own risk.
How can you protect your home in case of flooding?
Option 1: Gamble on federal disaster relief
Many people wrongly believe that the U.S. government will automatically take care of all their financial needs if they suffer damage due to flooding. The truth is that federal disaster assistance is only available if the President formally declares a disaster. Even if you do get disaster assistance, it's often a loan you have to repay, with interest, in addition to your mortgage loan that you still owe on the damaged property.
If your home is flooded and disaster assistance isn't offered, you'll have to shoulder the massive damage costs alone. The bottom line is that if you're looking for secure protection from financial loss due to flood damage, federal disaster assistance is not the answer.
Option 2: Buy flood insurance
When disaster strikes, flood insurance policyholder claims are paid even if a disaster is not federally declared. Flood insurance means you'll be reimbursed for all your covered losses. And unlike federal aid, it never has to be repaid. The costs of flood insurance depends on multiple factors, such as your flood risk, the number of floors your home has, and when it was built.
In general, a policy does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase flood insurance. So, if the weather forecast announces a flood alert for your area and you purchase coverage, it is likely too late.
What questions should you ask your insurance agent?
Speaking with your insurance agent is a wise idea, as flood insurance policies can be confusing. Remember that a good insurance agent should be honest with you when assessing your needs and risks. You want to be confident in whatever decision you make, and you should ask as many questions as you need.
If you are still unsure if you want flood insurance, consider asking your agent the questions below.
- What is my property's flood risk?
- Is flood insurance mandatory for my property?
- Does my community participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)?
- Do I qualify for a Preferred Risk Policy (a lower cost policy that is part of the NFIP for those in low and moderate risk zones)?
If you're already decided that you want to consider flood insurance, ask your agent the questions below.
- What is and what is not covered?
- What areas of my home/property are covered and what areas are not?
- How much coverage do you recommend I have?
- Does the policy provide replacement cost or actual cash value?
- Is this insurance policy backed by the federal government?
- Are there any discounts available?
- How long does it take for my policy to go into effect?
- How would I file a claim? Is there anything I should know in order to make filing a claim easier?