Does homeowners insurance cover flooding?


Most homeowners insurance policies will cover the cost of water damage if it was sudden and accidental, but will not cover flood damage — no matter the source of the water.

Pat Howard 1600


Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a senior editor and licensed home insurance agent at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Updated July 1, 2020 | 4 min read

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Homeowners insurance reimburses you when your home or personal property are burglarized or damaged by a condition that is covered in your policy. A standard policy covers everything from fire to windstorm damage to water damage if a pipe bursts or your water heater ruptures.

But if your home is flooded as a result of stormwater, an overflowing body of water, or groundwater seeping or leaking into your basement, homeowners insurance won’t cover it. Water damage from a sewer backup or overflowing sump pump is also listed as an exclusion in most policies.

If your home is at risk of flood damage or sewer and drain backups, you should consider flood insurance or adding a water backup coverage endorsement to your homeowners insurance.

➞ Read our complete guide to flood insurance

Key Takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance won’t cover any type of natural flooding, meaning flash floods and hurricane floods aren’t covered

  • If your basement floods due to a sewer backup or sump pump overflow, that usually isn’t covered either

  • Water damage that is sudden and accidental, like a burst pipe or water heater, may be covered by homeowners insurance

  • If you live in a flood prone area, you should consider a standalone flood insurance policy

Does homeowners insurance cover flood damage?

Most homeowners insurance policies won’t cover any type of flooding that originates outside of your home, meaning that floods caused by heavy rains, coastal waves or tide, groundwater, or spring thaws are not covered. To cover your home and personal belongings against natural floods, you’ll need flood insurance, which you should be able to find through your homeowners insurance provider.

If your basement floods because of a sewer backup, that also isn’t covered. Most home insurers offer additional coverage to protect your home and personal property against sewer and sump pump backups, which are a common cause of basement flooding. Most insurers offer up to $25,000 in water backup coverage that you can add onto your policy for a reasonable amount.

What type of water damage is covered by homeowners insurance?

Although flooding isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, water damage that originated from busted plumbing or a burst water heater may be covered. That means if a pipe bursts and floods your basement, homeowners insurance may reimburse you for any flooring, walls, or items that incurred water damage.

However, bear in mind that homeowners insurance excludes loss caused by wear and tear or routine maintenance issues, so if your plumbing eroded over time and your basement was gradually flooded by leaky pipes, that probably won’t be covered by homeowners insurance.

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When do I need flood insurance?

If you live in a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) designated flood zone, you should strongly consider flood insurance. Your mortgage lender may even require flood coverage if your home is in a special flood hazard area.

But keep in mind that flooding can happen in areas that are seemingly not at risk. If you live near a major river, lake, or valley that experiences water runoff during spring thaw, you should consider flood insurance even if your home isn’t technically in a flood zone. In fact, a staggering 55% of homes that were damaged by flood waters during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey were outside of the low- to moderate-risk flood regions.

If your home is located in any of the following areas, you may want to consider a flood insurance policy:

An area prone to forest fires

Areas damaged or destroyed by wildfires are at heightened risk of flooding since there’s no vegetation to absorb the flowing water.

A highly developed area

Highly developed areas with new roads, seemingly endless parking lots, and few parks or natural habitats can actually act as canals for flood waters and make the damage worse, as the soil that would otherwise absorb the water is covered by pavement.

A region that experiences rapid snowmelt

These are typically areas near the high-desert regions of the western U.S. that experience rapid snowmelt and subsequent water runoff.

If you are considering flood insurance, don’t wait until flood season to buy it, as there’s a30-day waiting period before policies can take effect. If you’re on the fence about flood coverage for your home, talk to a licensed representative at Policygenius who can offer coverage recommendations based on your home’s location and build.

Where do I get flood insurance?

Flood insurance policies are traditionally administered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a FEMA-sanctioned agency that was established as a response to the costliness of flooding and the lack of availability in the way of private insurance companies. However, in recent years, the private flood insurance market has skyrocketed, as premiums for privately written flood policies rose to $589 million in 2017, up 57% from $376 million in 2016, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Get more flood insurance statistics here

National Flood Insurance Program

NFIP policies are sold by private insurance companies through the agency’s Write Your Own (WYO) program. If you live in one of the NFIP’s 23,000 participating communities, you buy flood insurance through one of the 60 companies that participate in the program.

The NFIP only offers one type of policy and caps rebuild coverage at $250,000, which means high-value properties may either need excess flood insurance or a more specialized policy with higher limits.

Private flood insurance

In recent years, private insurers have become more comfortable and efficient with underwriting and predicting flood insurance risk, and that’s caused private flood insurance to take off. Flood coverage is typically offered in one of three ways by private insurers: as an add-on to an existing home insurance policy, as excess flood insurance to increase coverage amounts for an existing NFIP flood policy, or as a standalone flood insurance policy.