How to Get Flood Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

How to Get Flood Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

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Because standard homeowners insurance doesn't cover floods, the only way to insure your home against flood damage is by purchasing a separate policy.

Homeowners and renters can get flood insurance from the federal government or through a private company. If you have a mortgage and live in a high-risk area, your lender may even require it.

Getting flood insurance: What to know

You can purchase flood insurance through an agent or an insurer participating in the National Flood Insurance Program. There are no restrictions on who can purchase a policy, and you don't need to live in a floodplain or high-risk area. However, due to the high cost of this type of insurance, you should consider this option only if you live in an area that will be affected by flooding.

Type of flood insurance
How to buy it
Coverage limits
National Flood Insurance ProgramShop through an insurer or agent. Call (888) 379-9531 to find a policyUsually capped at $250,000
Private flood insuranceSearch online for companies in your area Example: Flood Insurance Agency, TypTap (only Florida), Golden Bear (only California)Varies; can exceed $250,000

Buying government flood insurance: The National Flood Insurance Program

You can purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, but only through an agent or insurer. There is no option to buy the insurance directly from the government. You can either search for insurers online or contact the NFIP Referral Call Center at (888) 379-9531. When you call, simply request an agent referral.

Premiums are the same, no matter what insurer or agent you go through. Rates are set by the NFIP and depend on predetermined factors such as the value of your property, the year it was built and flood risk.

While you won't see a variation in rates for the same property, you should still shop for quotes with multiple insurance companies and review their customer service record. If you need to file a claim later on, it will be handled by the insurers, not the government. Therefore, if a company is known for being difficult to work with during the claims process on their other lines of insurance, you can bet they will be just as difficult when you try to file a claim for flood damage.

When you sign up for flood insurance through the NFIP, there's a 30-day waiting period before your coverage kicks in. Therefore, you shouldn't wait until the last minute to buy a policy.

Pros

  • It's available to everyone.
  • You get reliable coverage.

Cons

  • Claim limits are usually less than $250,000.
  • These policies won't cover additional living expenses should you be displaced in a flood.

Buying private flood insurance

Some private insurance companies offer flood insurance, which is different from NFIP policies. This option isn't available in all states, and prices may vary. The main benefit is that you can typically purchase more coverage, which can be appealing if your home would be expensive to rebuild or repair. Plus, the waiting period is typically just 14 days.

Take a look at one example. If the combined value of your personal possessions is more than $100,000, the value of your home exceeds $250,000 and you live in a high-risk area, then you should consider buying a private flood insurance policy. Standard NFIP-backed policies will typically not pay out claims beyond those amounts.

There are some risks associated with buying flood insurance from a private company. These insurers can drop your coverage mid-term or decline to renew it, which could leave you scrambling for a new policy. When you're dropped, your only option will likely be an NFIP flood insurance policy, which will require you to wait 30 days before it kicks in. Furthermore, NFIP rates may be higher for those who were previously using a private insurer.

Pros

  • Higher claims limits are available.
  • The waiting period is shorter (14 days vs. 30 days).

Cons

  • The insurer may suddenly drop you or not renew your policy.
  • These policies aren't available to all.

How to get cheap flood insurance

NFIP-backed flood insurance will usually be the cheapest option for homes in high-risk flood areas. The average price of flood insurance purchased through NFIP is $672. Where available, private flood insurers may be cheaper in low-risk zones.

You can also sometimes get a discount on NFIP-backed flood insurance policies. There are two ways to do this.

You can follow specific flood-proofing techniques laid out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). You may also want to consider elevating your home and receiving an elevation certificate.

You may also receive a discount if your community meets the qualifications of the Community Rating System organized by NFIP. Your city's officials may take steps to improve your community's preparedness in the event a flood happens. The NFIP will then rate your area on a scale of 1 to 10, with a lower rank corresponding to a higher discount. The discounts range from 5% to 45%. Only a single city in the United States — Roseville, California — has managed to qualify for the highest discount.

These discounts are automatically applied to your premium based on your location.

Community class
Flood insurance discount
145%
240%
335%
430%
525%
620%
715%
810%
95%
100%

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