You may think that your home insurance covers everything, but it’s actually often lacking protection for one of the biggest hazards your home faces — flooding. Whether your home is in a Rock River floodplain, along streets that regularly flood, or faces some other type of flooding danger, you need flood insurance to protect you.
Why is Flood Insurance Separate?
Flood insurance is a separate coverage or policy because the risks are very different than most home insurance claims. Flooding causes widespread damage in a small area leading to the insurance company having to pay many claims at once instead of having claims spread out over time. Most flood insurance policies are backed by the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure that the insurance company is able to make good on covered claims. Some home insurance companies may also offer flood insurance or partner with a flood insurance company to make it easier to manage your policy along with a possible discount.
Do I Really Need Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance is almost always a good idea. While some homes have more risk than others, like a home along the river, almost any location can flood due to heavy rains or blocked storm drains. About one-quarter of flood insurance claims come from flooding outside of high-risk flood zones.
If you have a mortgage, your lender may require you to carry flood insurance. You may also be required to obtain flood insurance if you receive funding from FEMA or other government programs after a previous disaster.
How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?
Flood insurance varies widely based on your risk of flooding and the type of your home. One of the major factors is generally which flood zone you’re in, according to FEMA maps. If you’re on high ground and have a lower risk of flooding, your costs will be lower to match the lower risk, so it may not make sense to view flood insurance as an excess cost for something that has little chance of happening. If your home does get caught in a flood, you’ll be glad you were protected.
What Does Flood Insurance Cover?
There are typically two parts to flood insurance. Building coverage protects against structural damage to your home and permanent fixtures. Contents coverage protects your personal belongings. Check your policy for specific limits and exclusions.
What About Raised Homes?
If you have a home on stilts or with the main living area above ground level, you may still need flood insurance. A strong flood can still damage your home’s foundation or potentially even cause it to collapse. In addition, you may have your HVAC system or other property at a level that would flood. Since your flood insurance is based on your type of home, all of this will be accounted for in the pricing.
What About Basements?
Basements have a higher risk of flooding as well as taking more damage since they’re below ground. Therefore, your flood insurance policy will usually cover your basement with certain restrictions. It will typically cover structural damage, your heating and cooling system, and washers and dryers. It will often exclude furnishings, finishing, and belongings you store in your basement. Be sure to understand what your specific policy covers, especially if you finish your basement or use it for storage.
When Should I Buy Flood Insurance?
Most flood insurance policies, especially those under the National Flood Insurance Program, have a 30-day waiting period. That means your policy won’t cover any flooding that happens before you’ve had your coverage for 30 days. In addition, you typically need to buy flood insurance in advance of any flooding incidents. So if river levels are rising or heavy storms are in the forecast, it may already be too late to buy coverage. The safe thing to do is purchase flood insurance now.
Note that these restrictions generally won’t apply when you change flood insurance providers as long as you maintain continuous coverage. Ask your insurance agent for details.
Can Renters Get Flood Insurance?
Yes, renters can get flood insurance and should strongly consider it. While your landlord will need to get flood insurance to protect the building, neither your landlord’s flood insurance policy nor your renter’s insurance policy will typically cover flooding. To protect your personal belongings as a renter, you will need a flood insurance policy that covers contents only.
What is an Elevation Certificate?
An elevation certificate verifies the height of your specific home. While flood zones determine your general risk, they may not take certain things into account, such as your home being built on a hill on your property. Some insurance companies may require an elevation certificate, while others may give you the option of obtaining one to receive a lower rate if the elevation of your home supports it.
What Should I Do in the Case of a Flood?
Your first priority should always be evacuating to safety, keeping in mind that conditions can rapidly get worse, and your escape routes could be blocked before the water reaches your home. If you do have time, make sure your property inventory is current, and move your belongings to a higher floor or shelves if possible. If the flooding reaches your home and you need to file a claim, contact your insurance agent for assistance.