Q

Can FEMA pay for flood damage if I don’t have insurance?

A

Yes, if your house is flooded and you don't have flood insurance, you may be eligible for federal disaster assistance if certain conditions are met.

Pat Howard 1600

By 

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 January 6, 2022 | 2 min read

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Floods are the most expensive and common natural catastrophe, affecting 99% of U.S. counties and accounting for 90% of all natural disasters in the United States. While it’s clear that few areas of the country are immune to flood disasters, only around 15% of homes are protected with flood insurance.

But if you’re part of the 85% without coverage and your home is flooded, you may be eligible for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or Small Business Administration (SBA). In addition to federal aid, your state or local government may provide assistance of their own.  

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What happens if your house floods and you don’t have flood insurance?

If your house has uninsured flood damage and it’s located in a declared disaster area, there are a couple of government safety net programs that can provide financial relief.

  • FEMA disaster grants: FEMA grant money can be used to repair or rebuild your house to its pre-disaster condition and other necessary expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. While FEMA offers up to $36,000 for each eligible household, the average grant payment is around $5,000. [1]

  • SBA disaster loans: If you need more financial assistance than FEMA provides, you can apply for a disaster loan with the Small Business Administration. The SBA can pay up to $200,000 to repair or replace your home, and up to $40,000 to replace your damaged belongings. Just keep in mind that it's a loan, so you’ll eventually need to pay it back.

Both programs have strict eligibility guidelines that must be met before you’ll be able to receive disaster relief. For example, the affected home must be your primary residence — not a vacation or second home. Additionally, the programs will only pay for uninsured expenses. 

If you have flood insurance but you’re in need of additional financial assistance, you’ll only be eligible for federal aid once your insurance has paid the maximum amount.  

FEMA disaster grants

If you live in a federally declared disaster area, you can apply for financial assistance through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP).

In addition to providing relief for those who don’t have flood insurance, the program can also provide additional funds to those who do have coverage. If your flood or home insurance limits are maxed out and you need more money to pay for a new roof, or if the damage to your home doesn’t meet your flood insurance deductible, you can apply for FEMA assistance. 

The limit for FEMA IHP grants is $36,000, and money can be used for the following:

  • Home repair: FEMA can pay for damage to the structure of your home as long as it’s your primary residence. Funds can also be used to pay for flood mitigation measures, including hurricane-grade roof shingles, elevating furnaces and water heaters above ground, and elevating or relocating electrical panels.

  • Temporary housing: If your house is unlivable due to flood damage, FEMA can pay for temporary rentals or hotel stays until your home is repaired. These funds are typically available in one- to three-month increments for up to 18 months after a federally declared disaster.

  • Other needs assistance: Financial assistance is provided for all necessary expenses directly caused by the disaster, including medical expenses, meals, childcare costs, damage to essential vehicles, and moving and storage expenses. 

If you live in a special flood hazard area area and you don’t have flood insurance, you’ll only be able to use FEMA disaster assistance once. After that, you’ll need to purchase flood insurance to be eligible for aid in the event of another disaster.

SBA disaster loans

If FEMA grants aren’t cutting it, you can apply for a low-interest disaster loan through the Small Business Administration. These loans only pay for expenses not covered by insurance or FEMA grants. Once approved, you can use the money for the following:

  • Up to $200,000 to repair or rebuild your home. The damaged residence must be your primary home, not a seasonal home

  • Up to $40,000 to replace damaged property, including clothes, furniture, vehicles, electronics, and appliances

  • Up to $200,000 to refinance your mortgage. for home repair and replacement. This option is only available if you can’t get credit elsewhere and if you plan to make repairs using the disaster loan.

If you’re not eligible for credit elsewhere, the maximum interest rate on SBA disaster loans is 4%. If you can get credit elsewhere, the maximum interest rate is 8%. Loan repayment terms last up to 30 years.

If you’re in need of disaster aid, you can apply for an SBA loan online, by mail, or in person at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center.

Frequently asked questions

How much does FEMA pay for personal property?

With FEMA disaster grants, you can use the money to pay for essential personal property and other necessary expenses. If you’re approved for an SBA disaster loan, you can use up to $40,000 to replace damaged personal property.

Does FEMA pay for flood damage?

Yes, FEMA can pay for home repairs, personal property replacement, relocation costs, and other necessary expenses if your house is damaged by a flood. Federal aid is provided in the form of FEMA disaster grants and SBA disaster loans.

Do you have to pay FEMA back?

If you received money through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, you do not have to pay it back. But you do have to repay disaster loans received from the Small Business Administration.