Does homeowners insurance cover floods?

Many homes are at risk of flood damage, and homeowners are not always aware of the risks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that 99% of all counties in the United States experienced a flood event between 1996 and 2019, causing an average of $52,000 in damages per claim. With nearly every county in the US at risk of flooding, you may be wondering: Does homeowners insurance cover flooding?

The answer is no. Standard home insurance policies cover many types of water damage, but flood damage is not covered. Considering that just one inch of water can result in $25,000 in damage, flood insurance can be a significant purchase. Bankrate can help you understand how home insurance responds to water damage, why flooding isn’t covered, and how to get this valuable protection.

key takeaways

  • Nearly every county in the US has at least some level of flood risk.
  • Standard home insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
  • Coverage can be obtained with a separate flood insurance policy or, occasionally, through an endorsement to your homeowners policy.

Does home insurance cover floods and flood damage?

So is flooding covered by homeowners insurance? Not generally. Damage caused by floods, which FEMA defines as “a general and temporary condition of partial or total flooding of two or more acres of normally dry land or of two or more properties” — is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get coverage. Typically, you’ll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy to get coverage. You may be able to purchase coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), either directly or through an insurance company that sells the coverage, or through a private insurance company. You can also add a flood endorsement to your home insurance policy. Although rare, some companies offer a flood add-on.

What types of water and flood damage are covered by home insurance?

You already know that the answer to the question “Is flood damage covered by homeowners insurance?” is no, but you may be wondering if home insurance covers other types of water damage. Understanding how standard home insurance policies work and what types of water damage are generally covered, or may be covered through an endorsement, can help you make a more informed insurance decision.

The types of water damage your home insurance covers will largely depend on the form you’ve purchased and the endorsements you’ve added. Policies come in different types of forms, and most policies are HO-3 or HO-5 policies. For HO-3 policies, your home is covered for “designated perils,” meaning only the specific causes of loss listed in the policy language are covered, while everything else is not. HO-3 policies cover water damage from the weight of ice, snow, or sleet; wind storms; frozen and broken pipes; and the accidental overflow of a home system.

HO-5 policies cover your home for “open perils,” meaning that anything not specifically excluded is covered. While this type of policy expands your coverage, flooding is a common homeowners insurance exclusion. If you’re not sure what coverage you have, talk to your agent or a company representative to review your policy.

What types of water and flood damage are not covered by home insurance?

While standard HO-3 or HO-5 home insurance can cover a variety of types of water damage, there are types of damage that aren’t usually covered. Floods, as you may already know, are one of them.

However, there are other types of water damage that are not covered. For example, if your sump pump can’t keep up during heavy rains and overflows, you may end up with damage to your home. This type of damage, called a sewer overflow, isn’t automatically included in most home insurance policies, but it can often be added on. The water and sewer endorsement is a common home insurance endorsement.

Mudslides, mudflows, and landslides can also cause water damage to your home, but these perils are generally excluded from coverage. According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), you may be able to purchase special policies for mudflow and landslide coveragebut landslides are generally not covered by any type of insurance.

Who needs flood insurance?

Because the risk of flooding is present almost everywhere in the country, most homeowners should at least consider purchasing a flood insurance policy. If you have a mortgage and live in a high-risk flood zone, you may need to have a policy. For homeowners who own the property outright or are in lower risk areas, coverage may not be required, but it could still be a good idea.

Coastal homes, homes near bodies of water, and homes in low-lying areas can be especially vulnerable to flooding, although homes at higher elevations or miles from lakes or rivers could also be affected during heavy rains. FEMA offers a flood map tool which allows you to search for your address and see which flood zone you are in.

Tips for buying flood insurance

Buying flood insurance can seem intimidating, but the process is similar to buying any other type of coverage. While not all home insurance companies will have flood insurance options, many will. If you are looking for coverage, you may want to follow these steps:

  1. Ask if your insurer offers flood insurance policies. Some companies offer their own privately underwritten flood insurance, or even a flood insurance endorsement for your home policy, and many others can make it easy to purchase an NFIP policy.
  2. Know what coverage you need. Flood policies only have two types of coverage: home and personal property. You can buy a homeowners only policy or you can choose to have both types of coverage, but you cannot have a personal property only policy. Understanding your coverage needs (which may mean working with an agent) can help you choose coverage wisely.
  3. Shopping around. Until relatively recently, flood insurance was available exclusively through the NFIP, which meant you had no choice as to where to get your coverage. Now, however, some insurers write their own policies, which means you can shop around and compare rates.
  4. Know the time constraints. Most flood policies come with a 30-day waiting period, which means your coverage won’t kick in until 30 days after you make your first payment. There are some exceptions to this, but keep that in mind when shopping. Also, don’t wait until a storm approaches to seek cover; many companies place moratoriums on their policies if potential damage is imminent.
  5. Make a payment to purchase the policy. To start your coverage, you will need to make a payment. Most flood insurance policies must be paid in full; payment plan options are rare. If you pay for your insurance through your mortgage escrow account, the company will likely bill your mortgage and you won’t have to pay directly.

Frequent questions

Does flood insurance have a deductible?

Yes, flood insurance policies usually have a deductible. Some policies even have two deductibles, one for your homeowners coverage and one for your personal property coverage. The deductible you will pay will depend on the type of damage that occurred.

How much does flood insurance cost?

The cost of your flood insurance will depend on several factors. The most shocking aspect of your premium is the flood zone of your home. Your home’s flood zone is an indication of the likelihood of flooding in your area. In general, the more likely flood damage is, the more you’ll pay for flood insurance. However, you can reduce your risk of flooding by raising your whole houseinstall floor drains or fill your basement, and that can lower your premium.

Is flood insurance more expensive than home insurance?

Depends. The average cost of homeowners insurance is $1,393 per year for $250,000 in home coverage. Home insurance generally provides coverage for many more scenarios than flood insurance, but that doesn’t mean it’s more or less expensive. It all depends on your flood zone and the characteristics of your home. If you are in a very high risk area, your flood insurance could be quite expensive. However, you can shop around to find cheaper flood insurance, just like you can find cheaper home insurance by comparing rates. While NFIP policies should cost the same no matter which company facilitates the sale, private flood insurance rates vary and you may be able to find a cheaper policy.

Does flood insurance cover hurricanes?

Yes, flood insurance generally covers flooding associated with hurricanes and storm surge. Keep in mind, however, that you shouldn’t wait for a storm to get closer to seek coverage. If a company knows that the risk of widespread flood damage is imminent, it may be prohibited from purchasing coverage or the storm may fall outside the standard 30-day waiting period.