Is damage from flooding covered under my homeowners policy?

Even if you are not ‘in a high risk flood zone’- its high time (yep, I totally did that!) for all homeowners to rethink buying a flood insurance policy.  For instance, look at Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Harvey where the damage was severe and many homes and businesses were damaged by flooding, but many homeowners did not have flood insurance.  

So the term ‘flood’ can mean a lot of things in the English language, which can make this a tricky question.  I get this confusion from home buyers all the time, especially first time buyers, when I ask-

Have you considered flood insurance for your property?

Let’s start with this:

What isn’t a flood?

*Disclaimer* Check with your insurance agent to determine the specific coverage on your home policy.

  • A pipe bursting and causing water damage in your home, this isn’t a flood-even though people would say ‘my house is flooded’.   Your house actually is full of water from a pipe that burst. This type of incident is generally covered under your standard home insurance policy.
  • A washer over flowing and causing water damage in your home– this isn’t a ‘flood’ either.  This type of incident is generally covered under your standard home insurance policy.
  • A window left open during a rain storm and water damage occurs to your floors and your furniture- you guessed it! This also is generally covered under your standard home insurance policy.
  • Dirty water (that is supposed to go out of your home) backs up into your basement – nope, not a flood.  (Note: this is covered under sewer and drain back up, which often has to be added to a policy for coverage.  That’s a topic for another day, but for now check with your agent on this.)

So then: What is a flood?

Lets start with FEMA’s definition:

‘A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of 2 or more acres of normally dry land area or of 2 or more properties (at least 1 of which is the policyholder’s property) from:

  •  Overflow of inland or tidal waters;
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source
  • Mudflow
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined

In short- flooding is a temporary overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry.

I like to say- Water rising up from outside- flood.

Water coming down, not a flood.

But flooding does not have to be caused by a body of water!  It can be caused by heavy rain or snow melt, coastal storms and storm surge, waterway overflow from being blocked with debris or ice, or overflow of levees, dams, or waste water systems.  It can happen slowly or happen very quickly with little or no warning as in a ‘flash flood’.

‘But what if my property isn’t in a flood zone….’

A flood zone is a designation, not a determination if a flood will ever occur.

Is every property at risk for flood? Yes, absolutely.

But the bank doesn’t require flood insurance?

This doesn’t matter!  Over a 30 year mortgage you have a 26% chance of a having damage from flood vs a 10% chance of damage from a fire.

What is the truth about 100-year floods?

So- Do I need Flood Insurance if I am not in a high risk zone?

Yes!

Everyone who owns a home or property should get flood insurance!

Even if you:

  • Don’t have a mortgage
  • Are not in a ‘high risk flood zone’ as determined by FEMA
  • Have a mortgage, but the mortgage company does not requite flood insurance

Floods are the most common and costly of all weather-related natural disasters! Check out more info on what you should know and how to prepare for a flood at ready.gov

Every Property Can Sustain Flood Damage
Some properties are more flood-prone than others, of course. Ocean- or river-front property is more likely to flood than homes located on higher ground. The good news is that it’s relatively inexpensive to buy flood insurance if you live in a low risk area.

Here is a video of recent flooding on the Saw Mill Parkway, right up the street in Hastings on Hudson NY.

Homeowners in Westchester County, New York City and all of New York should be especially diligent about buying flood insurance.

According to the NY Times – with its 520 miles of coastline and thousands of acres of waterfront development, New York City has more residents living in high-risk flood zones than any other city in the country.

Flood Facts

  • The damage from just one inch of water can cost a homeowner more than $20,000.(1)
  • Flash floods typically carry water between 10 and 20 feet high.(2)
  • It takes just six inches of fast-moving water to knock over an adult and 12 inches to sweep away a small car.(3)
  • If you live in a 100-year flood plain, your home has a 1% chance of flooding every year.
  • 500-year floods,  happen more frequently than you might expect. In  the last three years, Houston alone has seen at least three 500-year floods.(4)
  • If you live in a single family home valued at less than $250,000 and it gets flooded, you’re likely to incur more damage on your home than it’s worth.(5)
  • If you live in a flood plain or a high-risk area, you are required to have flood insurance (if your home has a federally backed mortgage).
  • There is often a Mandatory 30 Day Waiting Period for new policies to take effect (unless you buy it when you are purchasing a new property).

There are Two Types of Flood Insurance

There are two types of flood insurance—one is available through FEMA and the other is available through private insurers.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, offers flood insurance through FEMA. As long as your community is in one of the communities that participate in the program, you should be eligible for both types of NFIP coverage—building (the house itself) and personal property (your stuff).

Building coverage is coverage for what it would cost to repair or replace your home up to $250,000

Personal property coverage replaces up to $100,000 in items and includes the depreciated value. So, if you paid $2,000 for that TV three years ago, personal property coverage would pay for what it would be worth today rather than what you paid for it originally or what it would cost to replace it.

Check out the Declarations Page of your insurance policy or talk to your local insurance agent to find what your coverage includes.

 What’s typically covered?

Here is a breakdown of what is and isn’t typically covered under each.(6)

    • Building Coverage: your physical home and its foundation, built-in kitchen appliances (like a refrigerator or stove), electrical and plumbing, air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters, wallboard and paneling, carpeting, permanent cabinets and bookcases, window blinds, detached garages and debris removal.
    • Personal Property Coverage: loose contents- ie clothing, furniture, electronics, , portable kitchen appliances, washers and dryers, freezers and the frozen food within them, and up to $2,500 in valuables, such as furs, artwork or jewelry.
    • NFIP Flood Insurance Typically Does Not Cover: temporary housing (loss of use), basements (any area of your home that has its floor below ground level on all sides), damage  that was not caused by floodwater, other small high value items (jewelry, precious metals, stock certificates, bearer bonds or cash) and features outside your home (trees, plants, wells or septic systems, walkways, decks and patios, fences, hot tubs or swimming pools).

Private Flood Insurance

Only a limited number of insurers offer private flood insurance—flood insurance not funded through the federal government. Because private flood insurance policies vary greatly by the insurance companies that offer them, you should understand the terms of coverage.

What Does It Cover?
Depending on the company and your specific policy you can get coverage for the full replacement amount of your home (Building Coverage) your belongings (Personal Property Coverage).  Private flood insurance typically offers the option of a higher level of coverage than NFIP’s $250,000 limit on your home and $100,000 limit on your belongings.

 What’s typically covered?

    • Building Coverage: your physical home and its foundation, built-in kitchen appliances (like a refrigerator or stove), electrical and plumbing, air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters, wallboard and paneling, carpeting, permanent cabinets and bookcases, window blinds, detached garages and debris removal.
    • Personal Property Coverage: loose contents- ie clothing, furniture, electronics, , portable kitchen appliances, washers and dryers, freezers and the frozen food within them, and up to $2,500 in valuables, such as furs, artwork or jewelry.
    • Loss of use: temporary housing if you can’t live in the home due to damage from flooding.
    • There is also usually a Shorter Wait: NFIP often takes 30 days to go into effect, but with some private insurers your coverage could go into effect much faster.

You can also combine both types of policies (NFIP and Private) for the best coverage.

Consider carrying the maximum amount of coverage through NFIP combined with additional coverage through a private insurer.

When is the best time to buy flood insurance?

When you purchase your property (or right now !)

Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program, a government program managed by FEMA, and available through virtually any  insurance agency.

There are also more private flood insurers who are entering the market!

Let’s say you’ve heard weather forecasts of heavy runoff from snowmelt. Concerned about your property, you call to buy flood insurance to protect your home. The government knows that many people who would buy such coverage may be in imminent danger. That’s why they require a 30 day waiting period for coverage to take effect – unless you’re buying property and coverage is required by your lender.

But the good news is- if you are not in a zone determined to be high risk, flood insurance is very affordable often- $300-$500 per year!

So…. if you are still confused  (or maybe even more confused!), and want to talk with an expert who can walk you through your options…. lets set a time to chat!

Or shoot me an email if that’s more your style- Nicole@thejohnsagency.com.

I speak insurance, so you don’t have to!

Request Your Proposal Here

Are you ready to save time, aggravation, and money? The team at Peak Insurance Group is here and ready to make the process as painless as possible. We look forward to meeting you!

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