Will My Homeowners Policy Cover Flooding?
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Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flooding but may cover water damage from other sources like windstorms or snowstorms. In addition, you can usually purchase separate flood insurance from either the federal government or a private insurance company to receive extra coverage.
Keep reading to learn what kinds of water damage are covered by homeowners insurance and whether you might need to buy flood insurance.
What Types of Flood and Water Damage Are Covered by Home Insurance?
Your homeowners insurance company will help pay for the costs of repairing water damage if the damage was caused suddenly or accidentally by a covered peril. Water damage sourced from within your home, like from a burst pipe, is generally covered by homeowners insurance, along with some kinds of external water damage.
Below are some examples of perils that could result in water damage and that are commonly covered by homeowners insurance.
Heavy winds blow a tree branch through your window and then rain enters through the shattered window
Weight of ice, sleet or snow
Snow builds up on your roof and creates an ice dam, causing water to leak through your roof
Theft and/or vandalism
Someone breaks into your home by kicking the door down while you’re away on vacation, leaving your house vulnerable to rain damage
Water/steam discharge from home systems and appliances
Your pipes suddenly burst and cause your basement to flood
Freezing of home systems
Standing water in your pipes freezes and then leaks once the pipes thaw
What Types of Flooding and Water Damage Aren’t Covered?
Floods generally are not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Flooding is not one of the named perils covered by your personal property coverage and it is usually listed as an exclusion, meaning the structure of your home won’t be covered against it either.
Homeowners insurance also generally doesn’t cover damage from artificial water sources outside of your home like a broken sump pump or sewer backup. In addition, you won’t be covered for any damage that is the result of neglect or poor maintenance. For example, your homeowners insurance company may not pay for damage caused by a leaky roof if you’ve known about the hole in your roof for months but never got around to patching it up.
What Is Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance is an optional coverage type that you can purchase in case your home or belongings experience flood damage. It is available to thousands of communities in the United States through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
If you purchase both building and contents coverage, the NFIP provides flood damage coverage for the following things:
- Electrical and plumbing systems
- Furnaces and water heaters
- Kitchen appliances like refrigerators, stoves, microwaves and dishwashers
- Permanently-installed cabinets, panels and bookcases
- Window blinds and curtains
- Foundational walls and anchorage systems
- Fuel tanks, wells, pumps and solar panels
- Clothing, furniture and electronics
- Laundry machines
- Air conditioners
- Valuables like jewelry, art and furs (with a $2,500 limit)
Like a traditional homeowners policy, flood insurance policies often come with a list of exclusions. Below are some of the things that flood insurance typically won’t provide coverage for:
- Sewer backups that aren’t directly caused by a flood
- Additional living expenses while your house is being repaired
- Swimming pools, fences, decks and other structures outside of the insured building
- Financial losses caused by a drop in business
- Currency, precious metals, stock certificates and other valuable papers
- Vehicles and their parts
- Personal property stored in basements
- Mold damage that you could have reasonably prevented
- Flooding triggered by earthquakes (requires separate earthquake insurance)
You may be able to go through your private insurer to get an NFIP policy. Conversely, your insurance provider may offer flood insurance themselves as a separate policy or as an add-on to your existing homeowners insurance policy.
Who Needs Flood Insurance?
Homeowners are required to purchase flood insurance if they live in a high-risk flood zone and have a government-backed mortgage, like an FHA or USDA loan. You must also maintain flood insurance if you have received federal assistance after a natural disaster in the past. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for federal disaster aid in the future.
Even if you are not required to have flood insurance, it may be a wise investment if you live in a region that is prone to flooding. For example, you might need flood insurance if you live in a coastal town or the Mississippi River’s floodplain.
How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?
The average annual cost of flood insurance for a single-family home through the NFIP was $815 in 2021. Exact rates can vary from person to person based on where they live and the characteristics of their home and belongings. Factors that can influence your flood insurance premium include:
- Whether you live in a flood zone
- Whether you are purchasing both building and contents coverage
- Your deductible and policy limits
- Whether your house is on a hill
- The age and condition of your home
- Whether your utilities and other valuable items are elevated
While you may not be able to buy a new home in a new location, there are other steps you could take to lower your flood insurance rates. For example, you may pay a lower premium if you move all of your valuables to the second floor of your home since that would lower the odds of you making a costly claim on your flood insurance. Likewise, raising your deductible would lower your premium since your insurer would be responsible for covering fewer costs in the event of a flood.
If you are getting flood insurance through the NFIP, your rates should be consistent even if you go through private insurance carriers. However, you may be able to shop around for cheaper rates if you are interested in purchasing flood insurance directly from a private insurer.
Is My Home in a Flood Zone?
You can input your address into the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center to determine if your home is located in a flood zone. By definition, a high-risk flood zone is any area that has a 1% chance or greater of experiencing a flood in any given year.
If you live in a valley, near a large body of water or in a city where it frequently rains, it may be worth checking to see if you are in a high-risk flood zone. Keep in mind that you will likely have to pay higher flood insurance premiums if you live in a high-risk flood zone since there is a greater chance that you will have to file a claim on your flood insurance policy.