Flood insurance 101: What properties require flood insurance?

The chances of flooding are greater in some areas than others, but that doesn’t mean floods don’t happen in other parts of the country as well. To protect your home and belongings from flood damage, it’s important to know what types of properties require flood insurance. If you are an homeowner or renter considering flood insurance, check out our quick guide on which properties require flood insurance coverage and which ones don’t.

Homeowners should get flood insurance

While most homeowners don’t need to worry about flood damage, there are a few who do. If you live in a community with an FEMA-identified 100-year flood zone and have less than $250,000 worth of coverage on your home—which typically applies to vacation homes—you’ll need to buy additional insurance for up to $250,000 in property damage. In some cases, you might also be required to get federal flood insurance when living near special flood hazard areas. To help find out if your location requires it, visit FEMA's interactive map

using NFIP as a search term; if your residence or business is within a designated mapped area marked as Special Flood Hazard Area, then you'll likely be required to carry coverage on it. Filing a claim after flooding isn't always simple either, so be sure to file early and take detailed notes on everything that's been damaged or destroyed so that if questions arise later (they will), you're prepared to provide documentation on any destroyed or missing items.

Renters need coverage too

Even if you don’t own a home, you may still need flood insurance. If you rent your place and have been there for over six months, chances are your landlord has an obligation to inform you of your risks. However, they might not know much about what types of coverage are available or how much it will cost. They might also not understand their obligations in case something goes wrong. A good start is asking whether renters insurance covers flooding; most do. And once you find out what that coverage looks like, take some time to see whether or not you want additional protection from FEMA or private insurers. Weighing all your options can help ensure that your future is safe from floods—and that it stays that way when catastrophes strike.

Know what flood insurance covers

Flood insurance typically covers a building’s foundation and frame, personal property inside, and not much else. Flooding happens when heavy rain or melting snow forces water into your home through doors, windows, and cracks in walls—not if a river runs through it. As such, flooding isn’t covered by standard homeowners insurance. In fact, only about 6 percent of all homeowners have flood coverage; an estimated $1 trillion worth of assets are at risk for water damage from floods today.

Inspect your property

It’s important to know if your home is in a high-risk area, since flooding can occur even when you’re nowhere near a water source. If you live on a river or near steep hills, there’s a good chance that flooding could be an issue in your neighborhood. To determine whether or not your home requires flood insurance, it’s important to do some research and get up to speed on what areas are high risk. Your lender will typically provide information about your area’s flood zone so make sure to check with them first.

Use government resources to know how much coverage you need

The government has a ton of resources available to help you determine if your property needs flood insurance, and if so, how much. You can use FEMA’s online Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) Viewer to look up information on your home or business. If you live in a community that participates in Community Rating System, rates may be discounted by as much as 50 percent! You can also ask your local NFIP participating agent for help with these details.

Know when your risk is increasing

Not all floods are created equal. Understanding your risk of a flood is just as important as determining if you should purchase flood insurance. Floods can result from heavy rain, snow melt, hurricanes and tropical storms, tsunamis and man-made events such as levee failures or dam breaks—to name a few. But before purchasing protection against these events, it’s essential to understand if you live in an area that has a history of flooding or is at risk for future floods. Areas with a moderate to high risk of flooding may be eligible for federal and state disaster relief through organizations like FEMA, which can help pay some costs related to damage caused by major weather events.

Stop Procrastinating

Get out of high-risk areas before disaster strikes

A property in a high-risk area can be well insured against floods, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to think about what you will do when disaster strikes. According to FEMA, there are about 400,000 houses and businesses in high-risk areas that aren’t covered by federal or state flood programs—and if your home or business falls into one of these places, you may have no coverage when disaster strikes.

Learn about the appeals process if you have been denied coverage

A property may be considered in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) if it is adjacent to or near a body of water and has a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year. It can take months to get an official determination from your insurer. In some cases, you might even appeal your denial with FEMA – though you’ll have to submit additional information about your property, as well as an explanation for why you feel that it does not fall into an SFHA.

Get an elevation certificate from FEMA to see if you are at risk for flooding in the future

If you are not required to have flood insurance, you may want to consider investing in an elevation certificate from FEMA (it’s free!). These certificates will provide information about your property that can protect it from flooding risks and associated damages. If you live in a high-risk area for flooding or if your home has been flooded before, having an elevation certificate is important to ensure your current and future investments are protected. To get started with your elevation certificate, visit www.fema.gov/elevation-certificates/.

While looking at elevation certificates online, keep in mind these three key things: 1) Most states do not require citizens to purchase flood insurance; 2) Elevation certificates cannot be purchased directly through FEMA; 3) Most certification data comes from aerial images taken of each parcel by FAA/USDA as part of their work maintaining navigable airspace and land ownership records. Having said that, here's what you need to know: If you don't need flood insurance because of where you live but would like extra protection against flooding damage (or would like peace of mind), obtain an elevation certificate from FEMA—just pay attention to how many acres are included on any given document!

How to file a flood insurance claim

1. Call your insurer as soon as possible and tell them you have a claim. Your agent will request documentation of your loss. Make sure to take pictures immediately. 2. You will then receive your Flood Insurance Claim Form and an NFIP Proof of Loss form, which is used to determine how much coverage you are entitled to for a claim (less any applicable deductible) based on a percentage of replacement cost for damaged or destroyed property, including outbuildings such as detached garages and sheds that are not attached to homes. 3. Submit these forms with any other supporting documents that may be requested by mail or email within 60 days of filing a claim (90 days in some cases).

Hopefully, this gives you better insight into flood insurance. Follow below for more insurance tips!

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