What do I need to know about purchasing flood insurance?


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UPDATED: 2020-11-25T18:06:29.921Z
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Flood water covers the street of a neighborhood.

You’ve likely heard the saying that April showers bring May flowers, but spring rains combined with rivers already swollen with snow melt can also mean flooding. What many homeowners don’t realize is that standard homeowners policies do not typically cover damage caused by floods. For that, you should consider purchasing flood insurance.

Flood insurance is provided primarily through a government program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), although some private insurance companies do offer policies. That insurance, according to a recent article in the New York Times, has just gotten a bit pricier.

Does homeowners insurance cover flooding?

Your homeowners insurance most likely does not cover weather-related flooding. Water damage caused by failures inside of the house — for example a pipe suddenly failing, or a malfunctioning water line that damages the house — are different.

As always, you should check your policy to see exactly what it covers, but one way to think about this differentiation is that weather-related flooding is water coming from outside of the house, and a leaking pipe is part of the house’s structure.

Please note: not all water damage that happens inside of a house is covered — some policies only cover sudden and accidental water damage, and do not cover damage that might occur from homeowners neglecting to take care of their properties. Some policies even exclude water damage caused by homeowner inattention, such as freezing pipes that burst in the winter. Again, check your policy for restrictions and exclusions.

Why is purchasing flood insurance important?

Many homeowners don’t accurately gauge the risk of their property flooding. You don’t have to live right next to a river to have your property flood. Heavy rains in combination with poorly cleared storm drains choked with last fall’s leaves can be all it takes to send rainwater into a homeowner’s basement. And of course, if you do live near a river, stream, or the ocean, you are at risk.

Why are flood insurance rates going up?

According to the Times article, a number of storms over the past decade have been costly, and this is putting pressure on the flood program’s finances. Flooding is rarely isolated to just a single home or several homes — when water rises, entire communities can experience major losses.

This is exactly what happened. A series of unrelated weather events caused major flooding in a number of locations across the country, and the resulting payouts have been significant. This in turn has led to premium increases; as the article in the Times noted, the average increase is around six percent.

Do I need flood insurance?

First, find out what kind of risk your home might have from weather-related flooding. Next, learn more about the national flood insurance program on FEMA’s website. If you are in an area that can flood, research your options — but don’t wait too long, as most flood insurance policies don’t go into effect right away.


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