Renters Insurance

Does Renters Insurance Cover Flood Damage?

Does Renters Insurance Cover Flood Damage?

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Although standard renters insurance policies cover some forms of water damage to your personal property, renters insurance does not cover flood damage to your belongings due to weather. For example, water damage caused to your belongings by a burst pipe may be covered under a renters insurance policy, but damage caused to the same belongings by the overflow of a nearby body of water won't be. Flood insurance for renters needs to be purchased in the form of a separate flood insurance policy.

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When does renters insurance cover flood damage?

As a general rule, renters insurance will not cover damage to your belongings caused by water coming from outside the house, as this is considered flood damage rather than water damage. So if there were a storm surge that flooded your neighborhood, ruining your belongings, your insurer would not reimburse you for the damage. That also applies if sewage overflows and enters your home.

However, there are some cases in which tenants are covered for non-flood water damage due to internal leaks. Renters insurance often covers water damage unrelated to weather, such as plumbing leaks. Even if water damage is related to weather, tenants could be covered if the event is not classified as flood damage.

For example, if a violent storm results in a leaking ceiling damaging your personal belongings, your renters insurance would cover the damage even though it is weather-related. However, in this instance you should avoid filing a claim: Your landlord is on the hook, as they are responsible for the structural integrity of their rental property and any damages resulting from poor maintenance.

What does flood insurance for renters cover?

Renters flood insurance, also called flood insurance contents coverage, is coverage you will need to purchase separately from your standard renters insurance policy. As a renter, you just need to purchase flood insurance that protects your belongings. You do not have to worry about the structure of the home — that is the landlord's concern. With renters flood insurance you can protect all of the following and more from flood damage:

  • Clothes
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Curtains
  • Portable and window air conditioners
  • Portable microwave ovens and portable dishwashers
  • Carpets, unless they were installed over an unfinished floor
  • Clothes washers and dryers
  • Valuable items such as furs and artwork up to $2,500
  • Food freezers and the food in them (not refrigerators)

We recommend you buy the same amount of flood coverage as you have for personal property on your renters insurance policy. You can estimate the value of your belongings yourself by making a home inventory. If you need assistance, many insurers such as Allstate have personal property calculators online that can help in cataloging all your belongings.

Does renters flood insurance cover possessions in your basement?

If the home you're renting has a basement, fewer types of possessions kept there are covered by flood insurance than in the rest of your home. The following is the only personal property flood insurance covers in a renter's flooded basement:

  • Washers and dryers
  • Food freezers and the food in them (but not refrigerators)
  • Portable and window air conditioners

Considering a basement is especially vulnerable to flooding hazards, be sure to store valuable possessions in other parts of the house if you want them to be covered by flood insurance.

Do you need flood insurance as a renter?

We recommend that you get renters flood insurance if you're a renter living in a moderate to high flood risk area and encourage you to consider buying it even if you live in lower-risk areas. Renters on the Florida coast, for example, may need flood insurance more than most tenants, but unless you're living in an elevated apartment or home, you don't want to underestimate your risk. To find out whether you live in a high-risk flood zone, you can go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website and look up your address. FEMA divides areas based on their elevation and proximity to water and gives them five levels of risk. In the riskiest "V" zone, you have a 1% chance every year of having a flood in your home and a 25% chance over 30 years. However, flood damage can also happen in lower-risk areas, with nearly a quarter of all flood claims coming from homes in the lower-risk B, C and X zones. The table below is our recommendations on getting flood insurance based on your zone.

Zone
Should you get flood insurance?
VYes
AYes
BHighly recommended
CEncouraged
XEncouraged

If you are still unsure of whether to get flood insurance, we also reviewed data from over 2,000 counties and determined the top 300 counties with the most flood damage per rented household. If you see your county toward the top of the list, perhaps you should consider getting a flood insurance policy — if a place can get a major flood once it can always happen again.

Rank
County
State
Number of Rented Households
Property Damage (2008 to 2016)
Property Damage per Rented Households
1TunicaMS2136$1,000,400,000$468,352
2OrleansVT2762$500,184,000$181,095
3FranklinVT4807$500,760,000$104,173
4GibsonTN5628$500,001,000$88,842
5TiogaNY4453$325,000,000$72,985
6MonroeAR1161$38,995,000$33,587
7OwenIN1651$50,065,500$30,324
8LinnIA24909$750,000,000$30,110
9PrairieAR904$26,317,000$29,112
10LouisaIA919$20,975,000$22,824
11DelawareIA1420$29,300,000$20,634
12RenvilleND251$5,096,000$20,303
Show All Rows

How to buy flood insurance for a rental property

Flood insurance for renters is easily attainable through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a government-run program that is by far the largest flood insurer in the country. However, as you cannot buy flood insurance directly from the NFIP, you will have to purchase an NFIP-backed policy through an insurance agent.

Currently, there are over 80 insurers in partnership with the NFIP, so it is very likely that the top renters insurance companies will be able to provide a flood policy. One major exception is State Farm, which pulled out of its partnership with the NFIP in 2010. If State Farm is your current insurer, you may have to go to another company or agency for your flood insurance policy. Additionally, to be eligible to purchase an NFIP backed flood insurance policy your neighborhood also has to be a participating member of the NFIP — though virtually all towns located near bodies of water are. You can check your locality's participation here.

Private flood insurance for renters

Another option besides the NFIP is a private flood insurance company. This industry is still small, with private flood insurance policies estimated to be only 3.5% to 4.5% of primary residential flood policies nationwide. However, the private market is growing, and it does provide some competitive advantages for renters over government-sponsored insurance.

For one, funding to the NFIP could be at risk given that Congress will only reauthorize the program for short periods of time. If Congress were to allow funding to the NFIP to lapse, it could severely impact how much coverage the program could afford to give. Another benefit of private flood insurance for renters is that it offers higher limits than the NFIP — though the maximum contents limit of $100,000 by the NFIP is likely sufficient to cover most people's personal belongings.

There are risks associated with purchasing a renters flood insurance policy from a private flood insurer, however. One is that private insurers' ability to assess flood insurance risk is unproven, and the market could be upended by a major disaster. If your private insurer underestimates how much it will have to pay out in a major flooding event, they may be unable to pay all of their claims — as a private business, they are not backstopped by the government like the NFIP. Also, unlike the NFIP, private insurers can drop your coverage if they deem you too risky.

Currently, we view the best bet for private renters flood insurance to be the Flood Insurance Agency. It is backed by AIG and offers policies in 34 states. Assurant has also become one of the largest players in the flood insurance market in recent years, offering policies in 10 states. If you live in California and Florida, you also may have some regional options for private flood insurance such as Golden Bear and TypTap.

How much does renters flood insurance cost?

Prices for renters flood insurance can range anywhere from below $100 in low-risk areas to thousands of dollars per year in high-risk flood zones. Flood insurance for renters can be expensive, but if you're renting an apartment or home in a place at risk for flood damage you should investigate your options to ensure you're appropriately covered. The following are some examples of NFIP flood insurance quotes available for contents-only coverage. You can get NFIP quotes yourself from major insurers. However, if you reside in a high-risk zone, such as zone V, quotes may not be available online and your actual quote could be substantially more expensive than these examples.

NFIP contents-only coverage

Coverage amount
Annual premium
$40,000$214
$60,000$256
$100,000$305

If you intend to purchase private, you may be able to find quotes online for both low and high-risk flood zones. We obtained quotes from The Flood Insurance Agency to give you a rough idea of what different renters flood insurance policies may cost.

Flood zone
Coverage amount
Annual premium
A$40,000$547
$60,000$622
$100,000$919
V$40,000$1,590
$60,000$2,210
$100,000$3,913
B/C/X$40,000$327
$60,000$377
$100,000$427

Quotes are for a single family primary residence with a $5,000 deductible

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