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What's flood insurance and how does it work?

Floods can strike unexpectedly, wreaking havoc on homes and possessions. Learn what flood insurance is, how it works, how to get it, and what it does and doesn't cover.

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What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance is a type of property insurance that covers your home and personal property for losses caused by water damage due to flooding. The cause of flooding can vary but can include things like

  • Heavy or prolonged rain
  • Melting snow
  • Coastal storm surges
  • Blocked strom drainage systems
  • Levee dam failure

Flood coverage is considered catastrophe insurance, much like earthquake insurance. Flood insurance isn't part of your homeowners policy so if you need coverage, you'll have to get a separate policy.

What types of natural disasters does flood insurance typically cover?

Flood insurance covers physical losses from flooding and claims that resulted from flood-related events caused by certain natural disasters. Here are a few scenarios typically covered by a flood insurance policy

  • Heavy or prolonged rain causing rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water to overflow and lead to flooding
  • Melting snow leading to excess water and ultimately, flooding
  • Coastal flooding and storm surges causing sea levels to rise
  • A blocked storm drainage system causing water to back up
  • A levee or dam break causing sudden flooding
  • Flooding due to a tropical storm
  • Groundwater flooding

Keep in mind flood insurance won't cover damages caused by flood induced landslides, but it may cover mudslides.

What is typically covered by a flood insurance policy?

Flood insurance can cover physical structures and items in your home like appliances and your personal belonging like clothes.

Building/dwelling coverage

  • Electrical and plumbing systems
  • Furnaces and water heaters
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves, and built-in appliances like dishwashers
  • Permanently installed carpeting
  • Permanently installed cabinets, paneling, and bookcases
  • Window blinds
  • Foundation walls, anchorage systems, and staircases
  • Detached garages
  • Fuel tanks, well water tanks and pumps, and solar energy equipment

Personal property/contents

  • Personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment
  • Curtains
  • Portable and window air conditioners
  • Portable microwaves and dishwashers
  • Carpeting that is not already included in property coverage
  • Clothes washers and dryers

What typically isn't covered by a flood insurance policy?

While policies may vary, flood insurance typically won't cover

  • Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided with proper maintenance
  • Damage caused by earth movement, even if the earth movement is caused by flood
  • Property outside of an insured building such as landscaping, wells, septic systems, decks and patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools
  • Financial losses caused by business interruption
  • Currency, precious metals, stock certificates, and other valuable papers
  • Cars and most self-propelled vehicles, including their parts
  • Personal property kept in basements

How do I know if I'm at risk for flood damage?

There are several ways to determine if you're at risk for flood damage1

  1. Review flood maps. The Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains flood maps and risk assessments that show how likely it is for an area to flood.
  2. Determine if your home is subject to local flooding conditions. If your home is in an area where it's more likely to flood due to heavy rains, poor drainage, etc., you may want to get flood insurance.
  3. Get a flood hazard assessement. This can help you gauge the probability of your home having a catastrophic flood-related event, as well as the potential damage.

Keep in mind floods caused by severe weather-related occurrences can happen anywhere and the damage can be costly. Even if you don't live in a high-risk flood zone, you may want to consider flood insurance.

How do I get flood insurance?

The National Flood Insurance Program is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and provides flood insurance to property owners, renters, and businesses. You Generall have three options for securing flood insurance.

  • Through your current home or property insurance company. Most insurance companies have the ability to write flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is admisistered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • By searching the National Flood Insurance Program directory. If you don't already have a homeowners policy or if your insurance provider can't write flood insurance, you can search for a provider who offers coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program's directory.
  • Through a private flood insurance carrier. Private flood insurance is an alternative to the government-backed National Flood Insurance Program. Coverage is offered independently by certain companies who have their own reinsurance programs and don't have to abide by the requirements set forth by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for policies written through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Private flood insurance companies may offer higher coverage limits than the National Flood Insurance Program, as well as more comprehensive coverage options, such as additional living expenses if you are forced to reside in a hotel or rental home until repairs can be made to your home.

Is flood insurance required by law?

Homeowners genderally aren't required by law to carry flood insurance.

  • However, there may be some situations where a homeowner is mandated to have it if you have a federally backed mortgage, such as a Federal Housing Administration loan, a Veteran's Association loan, or if you're seeking any other type of home loan from a federally regulated or insured lender, you may be required to get coverage for flood insurance as a condition of your loan.
  • If your property has had flood damage in the past and the owner received federal disaster assistance, you may be required to buy flood insurance to be eligible for future aid.
  • If you live in a flood zone, your mortgage lender may require you to secure flood insurance.

Tips on using and maintaining your flood insurance coverage

If you experience flood damage and need to file a claim

  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible
  • Document the details of your claim such as where it occurred and the extent of the damage
  • If you're unable to live in your home, tell your insurance company
  • Use mitigation measures to help prevent further damage. Visit the FEMA website for a complete list of flood mitigation tips.

Lastly, make a point to evaluate your flood policy over time with your insurance provider.

Learn more about flood insurance and how to get a policy.

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Please note: Information presented on this page is intended to be general information about insurance and is not specific to Liberty Mutual policies. Policies and coverages vary by state and insurer. Contact your insurance company to understand specifics regarding your policy and coverages.