Learn more about flood insurance costs and coverage.
Benefits of flood insurance
Flood insurance is available to homeowners, business owners, and renters throughout the nation, regardless of whether they are in a high-risk flood zone. Flood insurance is one of the best ways to protect against financial losses caused by flood events as it enables people to recover more quickly and completely. Flood insurance provides funding to repair flood-damaged property without the need to draw down savings, take on debt, or rely on often insufficient and delayed assistance from the federal government. Everyone should consider buying a flood insurance policy even if it is not required, as most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damages.
Flood insurance is available primarily from the federally-run National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), though some private insurers also offer coverage. Under the NFIP, residential property owners can purchase up to $250,000 to cover building damages and up to $100,000 to cover damage to personal property or “contents.” Non-residential property owners, such as businesses or municipalities can purchase up to $500,000 for building coverage and another $500,000 for contents coverage. For coverage beyond these limits, property owners can purchase excess flood insurance policies from private carriers.
Cost and coverage
The cost of flood insurance for given property varies by flood zone, the amount of coverage purchased, and various characteristics of the building. Some characteristics may include the elevation of the building, how many floors it has, and whether or not it has a basement. NFIP policies for single-family homes average $1,098 per year inside the FEMA-mapped 1% annual chance floodplain, also known as the Special Flood Hazard Area, or SFHA, and $492 outside the SFHA (FEMA 2018). The median policy for a single-family home inside the SFHA costs $738. Outside the SFHA, the median cost is $439. (FEMA 2018).
Flood insurance is mandatory for certain homes in the SFHA. This includes those with a mortgage from a federally-backed or federally-regulated lender in addition to those with a mortgage backed by a federal agency like the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Agriculture, or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Finally, those who receive federal assistance for property acquisition, construction, or repairs may find flood insurance is mandatory.
For mortgage borrowers that are required to carry flood insurance, homeowners must purchase coverage before the loan closes and must maintain coverage until the mortgage is fully repaid. The required amount of coverage is the lesser of the remaining principal balance of the loan, the maximum coverage available from the NFIP ($250,000 for single family homes), or the insurable value of the building. Homeowners who do not comply with the mandatory purchase requirement may be ineligible for federal disaster assistance in the future.
Although flood insurance is not legally required for all properties, it is generally a good idea to have it. FEMA maps, which flood insurance requirements are based upon, are often outdated and don’t account for all types of floods. Even if a home is not in the SFHA, it may still have a high risk of flooding. In fact, properties outside of FEMA-mapped high-risk areas account for 20% of all NFIP claims and receive 33% of federal disaster assistance for flooding (FEMA 2017)
Further, flood insurance for homes outside the SFHA can be quite affordable since FEMA offers low-cost policies for these properties if they have not previously flooded.
To buy flood insurance, contact your insurance agent, or visit floodsmart.gov to find a flood insurance provider near you.