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More on Home Insurance
Flood insurance protects your home and personal belongings against flood damage, but certain types of property aren't covered by a standard flood policy.
Flooding is the most expensive and common natural disaster in the U.S., affecting homes in every corner of the country, but many people don’t know that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover water damage caused by flooding. If you live in a flood-prone area, you will want to consider taking out a flood insurance policy to cover your home and personal belongings against this costly disaster.
Most major homeowners insurance providers offer flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal government program with two types of policies:
Building property coverage, which covers your home up to $250,000
Personal contents coverage, which covers your personal property (like clothing, furniture, and electronics) up to $100,000
You have the option of acquiring one or both types of NFIP policies. If your home is mortgaged and you live in a high flood risk area, your lender may require you to get building coverage to protect your home. If your home needs more coverage than the $250,000 limit offered by the NFIP, many insurance companies offer their own private flood insurance product that could provide you with higher limits and better coverage.
A standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover damage from flood disasters
If you live in a flood-prone area, you’ll want to protect your home and personal belongings with flood insurance
Flood insurance covers your home, its foundation, and contents like your furniture, clothes, and jewelry from flood damage
Flood policies usually provide limited coverage for basements
Flood insurance covers your house and everything inside against flood damage. As previously mentioned, a standard flood insurance policy has two coverage types: building property coverage and personal contents coverage.
Your maximum coverage limit for building property coverage under NFIP plans is $250,000 and you’re reimbursed for the home’s replacement cost when you file a claim. With building coverage, the following parts of your home are covered.
The home and its foundation
Home essentials like plumbing, air conditioning, furnaces, water heaters, and fuel tanks
Built-in home appliances like your refrigerator, oven, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer
Permanently installed carpeting over unfinished floor or window fixtures like blinds and curtains
Permanently installed cabinets, shelves, paneling, and bookcases
Detached garages (up to 10% of your building property coverage can be used)
Your personal contents coverage protects the stuff inside your house and typically needs to be added separately to complement your building coverage. Your maximum reimbursement amount with the NFIP plan is $100,000. With personal contents coverage, the following items are covered.
Personal belongings like clothing, furniture, kitchen utensils, and electronics
Portable AC units
Portable microwaves, refrigerators, and other types of appliances
Carpeting that isn’t over an unfinished floor
Certain types of expensive valuables like jewelry, art, and furs (up to $2,500 per item)
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The following types of hazards and property types are typically not covered by the building or personal contents portion of a flood insurance policy.
Moisture or mildew/mold damage that “could have been avoided by the homeowner”
Sewer or sump pump backup unless it was caused by the flood
Valuable papers like stock certificates
Trees and plants
Pools and hot tubs
Loss of income
Additional living expenses like hotels or temporary housing if the flood makes your home uninhabitable
General clean up of your property or home after a flood
Additionally, NFIP flood insurance has limited coverage for areas below the lowest elevated floor, like your basement, crawlspace, or bomb shelter. Certain types of property and home features not covered in your basement include:
Paneling, bookcases, and window fixtures
Any carpeting, rugs, or floor tiles
Drywall for both walls and ceilings
Walls and ceilings not made of drywall
Most types of personal property (except freezers and the food in them, washers and dryers, and portable air conditioners)
The flood insurance marketplace — long considered too risky for private insurers — has taken off in recent years and grown more competitive, as carriers have more sophisticated risk modeling and predictive analytics to assist them in underwriting.
In fact, according to a National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) study, over 120 insurers wrote their own private flood insurance in 2018, up from 90 insurers in 2017, and 50 in 2016. Additionally, a new rule that went into effect in July 2019 could be a boom to the private flood market, as it would allow mortgage companies to accept private flood insurance instead of NFIP plans (in areas where NFIP plans are currently mandatory).
If private flood insurance is available in your area, you may want to consider one over an NFIP plan. For one, NFIP policies only cover your home and personal property, and your coverage amounts are limited. As climate change intensifies and flood events possibly become bigger and more catastrophic, you’ll want insurance that can cover a full rebuild of your home. The $250,000 building coverage offered by the NFIP may not be enough.
With private flood insurance, you generally have coverage limits that are as high as what you’d have for homeowners insurance, and private flood plans typically include additional protection, like loss of use coverage. You may also find that flood insurance is cheaper than NFIP coverage — giving you both higher quality and more affordable flood protection.
Pat Howard is a homeowners insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. He has written extensively about home insurance cost, coverage, and companies since 2018, and his insights have been featured on Investopedia, Lifehacker, MSN, Zola, HerMoney, and Property Casualty 360.
Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto and renters insurance. She previously worked as a freelance writer and copywriter, and has been writing about insurance since 2019. Kara is an expert at making complicated topics like property insurance simple to understand. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, The Culture Crush, and more.
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