Many homeowners still believe that homeowner’s insurance automatically includes water and flood insurance. That’s simply not the case. If you haven't checked your policy lately and are banking that your insurance company will come through for you in the event of a flood, you could be sadly mistaken.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, only about 12% of Americans have flood coverage for their homes. The other 88% either believe they'll never deal with a flood or have been misinformed about what their home insurance actually covers (even if you live in-land, you might need coverage. See The Seas Are Rising - Do You Need Flood Insurance? to learn more).
Thankfully, there’s a simple solution: water and flood insurance. Flood coverage doesn’t need to be complicated. For homeowners in flood areas, the coverage is a must and easy to purchase.
The Basics of Flood Insurance
Flood insurance coverage is designed to protect you when your home or its contents are damaged as a result of a flood. In theory, the policy sounds great; in practice, things are a little different.
First, it’s important to note that flood insurance coverage is regulated by the government. FEMA has provided guidelines for buyers looking into coverage. You can purchase flood coverage to protect your building property or personal contents. You can also purchase both coverage options.
Building Property Coverage
Building property coverage protects your actual home and the physical structure.
The coverage usually pays out replacement cost value for your main residence and actual cost value for vacation homes. The maximum coverage limit is $250,000 per policy.
Personal Contents Coverage
Personal contents coverage protects your belongings. Things like clothing, furniture, and electronics will be covered. However, it’s important to note, which we will below, that many items do not fall under this coverage.
The maximum coverage limit for this policy is $100,000.
Purchasing Both Options
As we’ve previously stated, you can purchase these two coverage options together or separately. For homeowners in high-risk areas for flooding, purchasing both coverage options is highly recommended.
6 Things Your Flood Insurance Won't Cover
If you’re considering flood insurance but are curious to learn more about the ins and outs of the coverage, we’ve got you covered. Below you'll find information detailing six things that aren’t covered in your average water or flood insurance coverage.
Let’s dive in.
While most flood insurance policies will offer replacement cost value for your primary residence building property (your home's structure), it’s rare to find a plan that allows you to get replacement costs for your personal belongings.
When it comes to personal belongings, most flood policies offer actual cash value. What does that mean? It means you'll only be reimbursed for the actual value of the damaged item on the free market at the time of the damage.
You will not, in other words, receive what it costs to replace the model with a similar new one at today’s prices. You receive what the item is worth right now, not what you paid for it or would pay if you bought it now.
Let’s say your three-year-old TV was damaged in a flood. When you first bought it, it set you back $600. A new one would cost you a bit less – there are better models now so this one would only cost you $500. But the insurance company will only reimburse you what your actual, three-year-old TV set would fetch on the open market. So, you get $250 to represent the actual cost of your damaged property. If you use that money to buy a brand new TV, it probably won't be anywhere near as nice as the one you lost.
Your valuables will not be fully covered by a traditional water and flood policy. You’ll need to pick up additional coverage options to fully protect things like baseball cards, furs, paintings, and other works of fine art (your homeowner's insurance coverage will be limited here, too. See An Intro to Insurance Sublimits to learn more).
Traditional personal belongings flood coverage offers up to $2,500 coverage after a flood. For most valuables and collectables, that won't come close to the total value of the damaged items.
Hot Tubs and Swimming Pools
Your flood insurance coverage will not protect anything outside your home. That means your swimming pool and hot tub will not have any protection. And neither will your deck, patio, landscaping features, and septic system.
If you plan to put a lot of money into outdoor entertainment for your home, you’ll need a different insurance policy to protect that investment. Your home insurance, not your flood coverage, is what will offer you the protection you need in these cases.
Flood coverage will, however, cover debris clean-up inside your home and on it. The coverage only applies, however, to any debris inside or on your home. Most policies will have you pay out of pocket for yard clean-up services.
If your home is damaged by fire, it might take a while before you can move back in. A typical homeowner's insurance policy will pay for comparable living quarters until your home is repaired and you can live in it again.
Flood insurance, however, does not work this way.
Yes, if your home if flooded, you'll probably have to go live somewhere else while the debris is cleaned up and the damage is repaired. But you'll have to pay for those accommodations yourself.
There is one exception. If the U.S. President declares a disaster, FEMA may step in and provide alternative living expenses.
Some items in your basement will not be covered under a general water and flood insurance policy. You’ll need to read your policy carefully. Each and every policy can contain different language here.
Generally, any personal belongings in the basement that were damaged by the flood won’t be covered. Certain appliances and structural elements are covered, but the exact specifications all depend on your location and the details of your policy.
Currency and Precious Metals
Similar to valuables and collectibles, your flood insurance policy won’t have any protection for cash assets and precious metals stashed in your home. Just remember that you’ll always need a separate policy for any such items if a flood hits town.
Water and Flood Insurance for All
Some homeowners need flood coverage. Others don’t. The problem is that some don’t think they need coverage when they really do. The best thing a homeowner can do is educate themselves on the risk of flooding in their location and look into the available coverage.
If you’re curious about flood insurance in your area, start by going over this article one more time. Pay attention to the details of what is covered and what isn’t and figure out if anything you own might need to be covered by a separate policy. Then get in touch with your local insurance agent and find out if protection is right for you.
Stay dry and get covered!