You do not need to live near a body of water to consider purchasing flood insurance. Even homeowners who do not live near oceans, rivers, lakes, or streams may be at risk for flood-related damage to their properties and may want to consider a flood insurance policy.
According to the National Flood Insurance Program, a flood is defined as a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land, or two or more properties on a block, are inundated by water or mudflow, causing damage to a dwelling or its contents.
Flooding can be caused by a variety of things, including overflowing lakes, rivers, or streams, or by melting snow or ice. Even broken sewer mains can cause flooding and can be covered by flood insurance if the break floods two or more homes.
Before you rush out and buy flood insurance, though, let’s examine the important characteristics of a standard flood policy and what it does (and does not) cover.
What is not covered by a standard flood policy?
Any of your personal belongings that are located in a basement, such as furniture, electronics, and clothing, are not covered under contents coverage. For the purposes of flood insurance, the definition of a basement is any area of the building, including a sunken room or sunken portion of a room, having its floor below ground level on all sides. So if, for example, you have a man cave in the basement, complete with an expensive entertainment center and pool table, it will not be covered in the event of a flood.
In addition, there is no coverage for damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner—whether contents are in a basement or not. This includes mold or mildew that could have been prevented by pulling up wet carpet, setting up fans, or calling in an emergency clean-up service. Contents outside of the building, such as patio furniture, hot tubs, swing sets, swimming pools, plants, and trees, are also not covered.
In terms of dwelling coverage, there is no coverage for paneling, bookcases, carpeting, tile, and drywall for walls and ceilings in any basement area as defined above. There is never any coverage for wells, septic systems, walkways, decks, fences, or seawalls, and there is no coverage for loss of living expenses, such as temporary housing or loss of use.
What is covered by a standard flood insurance policy?
Under contents coverage, any personal belongings that are located on the first floor or higher are covered. This includes items like furniture, electronics, clothing, curtains, portable air conditioning units, washers and dryers, kitchen supplies, and area rugs. This also includes refrigerators and freezers and the food inside them
Generally, the building and its foundation, electrical and plumbing systems, central air conditioning equipment, furnaces, water heaters, fuel tanks, heat pumps, and sump pumps are covered under dwelling coverage. Debris removal is also generally included.
If you are considering purchasing flood insurance, here are five things to remember:
1. Unless you are closing on a new home, there is a 30-day waiting period when purchasing a flood policy. This means you can’t rush out and buy a flood insurance policy when you hear a big storm is on its way—you have to buy it in advance.
2. The maximum dwelling limit on a standard flood policy for a personal home is $250,000, and you will need to purchase coverage for the contents of your home separately. It is not automatically included.
3. If you have a detached garage, a separate flood policy is needed as well. The minimum deductible is $1,000, with dwelling and contents coverage each having this separate deductible. There is an option to purchase policies with higher deductibles to reduce the premiums.
4. A flood policy pays actual cash value (ACV) of the damages or up to the policy limit. It will only pay on a replacement cost basis if your dwelling coverage is up to 80 percent of the full replacement cost of your building. For example: Say your home’s replacement cost is $500,000, and it was totaled due to a flood. If you purchased a standard flood policy with the maximum dwelling limit, you would only receive $250,000 to pay for the damage.
5. If you have a high-value home, you may want to consider a separate excess flood policy. This policy would offer full replacement cost coverage on your home and would kick in after the full payout of your standard flood policy. For more information on excess flood coverage, call your insurance agent.
Of course, these are just some of the important highlights to consider when deciding whether a flood policy is worth purchasing. There are a few insurance carriers that offer flood policies with much broader coverage, and they may expect to be the carrier for your homeowners policy as well. For a more detailed explanation, check out www.floodsmart.gov , or simply call your insurance agent.
Heidi Petschauer Fox graduated from St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., in 1983 with a B.S. in management. She joined her late father’s firm, Petschauer Insurance, in 1982, became principal in 1995, and now shares ownership with her partner and cousin, Erwin Petschauer. She received her Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation in 1997. She currently facilitates the professional and creative development of the entire Petschauer team and manages the personal lines and social media departments.