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Does Homeowners' Insurance Cover Flooding?

By Holly South | Last updated on

The best time to get protection against a flood is before it happens. That means if you keep anything in a basement or live on the ground floor, it's important to have flood insurance. However, many properties that should have flood insurance do not.

A flood insurance policy is separate from a standard homeowners insurance policy or renters insurance policy and can cover your home and personal belongings in the event of a flood. Mostly, flood insurance can cover flooding from hurricanes or an extreme amount of rain.

Buying flood insurance can be a good idea for a lot of people, but in some cases, it's also mandatory. It's important to understand how and when to purchase flood insurance so that you're prepared before disaster strikes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is generally a good place to start.

General Coverage Options

Under federal law, homes with a federally regulated mortgage must have flood insurance if located within a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Even if your home is not within an SFHA or a high-risk flood zone, lenders may require that you have flood insurance before approving a mortgage.

A standard homeowners insurance policy may cover certain types of water damage, but they don't cover flooding. If you want to protect yourself, you need separate flood insurance.

Because of the potentially high cost of flood damage, the NFIP provides subsidized insurance to homeowners in many communities, such as areas on the East Coast that are prone to hurricanes and storm surges or flood plains near rivers. If your area isn't covered, insurance is available through private companies. NFIP policies typically have a deductible that you must meet.

Building or dwelling coverage is for the physical property and can provide compensation for structural damages. This would include flooring, carpeting, garages, porches, etc. If you live in a high-risk flood zone, most mortgage lenders will require you to at least have this type of coverage.

Belongings or contents coverage is for non-structural personal property. So, if the flooding short-circuited your water heater, washing machine, or dishwasher or ruined your book collection, you may be able to purchase coverage that would compensate you for those losses as well.

Flood insurance can provide you with compensation at cash value for the price of damages, up to the amount on your policy. Your insurance agent is probably a good place to start, as they can provide you with more information and an insurance quote. Just because you've purchased flood insurance, doesn't mean everything is covered.

Types of Flooding

Common reasons for flooding covered by most flood insurance policies include the following:

  • Sewer backup
  • Mudflow
  • Torrential downpour
  • Hurricanes
  • Collapse of land along a body of water
  • Rapid runoff due to heavy rain
  • Basement flooding

Granted, most of the flooding that occurs will be due to natural disasters. Common exclusions from flood insurance coverage include instances where a homeowner didn't protect themself from damage when they could have. That would be things such as toilet backups or roof leaks, as those can be prevented. If there is water damage or mold that you should have prevented, the insurance company may not pay out.

FEMA defines a flood as a temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two acres of land that would normally be dry or of two or more properties. That means your house cannot be the source of the water damage (for example, a burst pipe), and must also affect at least one of your neighbors for you to make an insurance claim

Protect yourself early, because NFIP flood insurance coverage doesn't kick in until 30 days after you purchase the policy. That means that you would not be able to make claims for damage that occurs during the waiting period. So, if you wait until the flood warnings arrive, your policy may not pay out. Some private insurance companies may have shorter waiting periods, but it is still a safer idea to account for the 30-day wait time.

If there is a flood and your insurance provider is unwilling to pay for covered damage, you do have options. Get help from an experienced lawyer, who can determine if you have a strong claim and can take action against your provider.

A flood can cause significant property damage, but with proper protection, it doesn't have to be devastating. Purchase flood insurance now to protect yourself in the future.

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