Updated February 11, 20222 min read
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Flood insurance typically comes with a 30-day waiting period when you obtain coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). That means if your house is flooded within those 30 days, you won't be able to use your flood insurance coverage to pay for the damage.
However, there are instances where the NFIP will waive your waiting period or reduce it to one day if you meet certain criteria. But if you don't qualify for a waived or reduced waiting period, there's one additional option worth considering: Private flood insurance.
The waiting period for private flood policies is often significantly shorter than the federal government plan — in fact, policies typically go into effect in as little as 10 to 14 days. If you’re in need of last minute flood insurance coverage, private flood insurance is more than worthy consolation prize.
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The standard flood insurance waiting period is 30 days when obtained through the NFIP. So if you live in a coastal region susceptible to hurricanes and you don't have flood insurance, you may want to consider applying for coverage at least by May 1 — or a full 30 days before the start of hurricane season.
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The flood insurance waiting period is usually 30 days, but there are a few instances where the NFIP or your insurance provider will let you forgo it altogether.
If you purchase flood insurance during the mortgage process: The mortgage process is a great opportunity to evaluate your coverage needs and purchase added protection for your house, including flood insurance. In many cases, it's not by choice — lenders often require borrowers in high-risk flood areas to carry flood insurance. Regardless of your reason for obtaining coverage, a waiting period won't apply as long as you purchase it in connection with your mortgage.
If you make changes to your coverage at renewal: At renewal, you have the opportunity to either add to or reduce your coverage limits. Your insurer will then issue you a new policy, only you don't have to wait 30 days for it to kick in.
If your house is damaged due to flooding on burned federal land: In the event your house is flooded after a wildfire — and the source of the floodwater was burned federal land — your insurance company may waive your waiting period if you apply for flood insurance within 60 days of the wildfire containment date.
If you live in a newly designated flood zone: If your house is in a newly designated Special Flood Hazard Area — or 100-year floodplain — and you buy flood insurance within 13 months of the flood map revision, your waiting period is reduced to a single day.
There are several advantages to purchasing a private flood insurance policy over an NFIP plan, but chief among them may be the significantly shorter waiting period. In fact, it's not uncommon for private flood insurance to go active in as little as 10 to 14 days after you hit the payment button.
Similar to the NFIP, private flood companies also make exceptions to their waiting period. So if you're taking out a mortgage or refinancing an existing one, you won’t even have to wait 10 days.