California is known for endless outdoor adventures. With beautiful beaches, mountains, valleys, lakes, and mesmerizing deserts, California gives homeowners many reasons to love the Golden State. But there’s a natural disaster you can’t escape, no matter where you live in the state: flooding. 

Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the United States, and California is no exception. From storms, heavy rain, and tsunamis along the coast to flash floods throughout the desert areas, most of the state is prone to floods.

There isn’t a single county that hasn’t been declared a flood disaster multiple times over. It’s best for homeowners in California to understand flood insurance costs, coverage options, and requirements before disaster strikes.

And if you’re looking for a California homeowners insurance policy, use Insurify to compare homeowners insurance quotes. It only takes a few minutes to see how much you could save by updating your existing policy or purchasing a policy for your new home.

California Flood Insurance Policy: The Basics

You might think your homeowners insurance would cover flood damage. However, even the best home insurance companies exclude damage from flooding. To protect your home and your personal belongings from water damage, you must purchase a separate flood insurance policy.

Flood insurance is a coverage option many California homeowners should consider due to the increased risk of flooding throughout the state. It may even be required. 

For instance, government-backed mortgage programs, such as FHA loans, expect you to purchase flood insurance if your home is in a high-risk flood area. Some lenders can also require you to have a policy even if you don’t live in a high-risk flood zone.

Flood Insurance California Requirements

Whether you need flood insurance in California depends on where you live and the flood risk for that area.

If you buy a house in a high-risk flood zone, there’s a good chance you’ll need a flood policy. But keep in mind that nearly 25 percent of flood insurance claims are from low- to moderate-risk areas. Even though you may not “need” a policy, consider purchasing one for the peace of mind of knowing your property and belongings are protected.

Your local real estate agent may be able to tell you which neighborhoods require flood insurance. You can also contact your insurance agent to ask about flood insurance or call the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Help Center at 1 (800) 427-4661 to ask for an agent referral.

Flood Insurance Rate Map California

Thousands of miles of streams, rivers, lakes, and coastline put many California areas at risk of flooding. 

However, State-Federal levees, such as the one in the Central Valley, are human-made devices that put 17 counties in a high-risk area. Known as the Levee Flood Protection Zone, the state recommends homeowners in this area obtain flood insurance.

Here’s a guide to California flood zones:

  • Zones A, AE, AH, AO, and A99 are Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). They’re part of the 100-year floodplain and have a 25 percent or higher risk of flooding at some point during a 30-year mortgage term.
  • Zones B and C are moderate risk and are not required to have flood insurance.
  • Zone X is a minimal-risk zone. Low-risk areas in Zone X are part of the 500-year floodplain and are also not required to have flood insurance.

To determine which zone you’re in, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides California’s flood map, also known as the Flood Insurance Rate Map. FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center is the official online tool to locate your flood zone.

Coverage Limits for California Flood Insurance

When you buy flood insurance coverage, you get added protection for your home and contents coverage for the personal property inside your home.

If floodwaters rise in your neighborhood, you can generally expect your policy to cover:

  • Your home’s structure and detached garages
  • Cabinets, paneling, and built-in bookcases
  • Carpeting and window treatments
  • Essential systems, such as electrical, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning
  • Appliances, including the food within refrigerators and freezers
  • Furniture, electronics, clothing, and other personal belongings
  • Original artwork, furs, and other valuable items

Flood Insurance Exclusions

For flood insurance to kick in, a flood must directly cause the loss. According to FloodSmart.gov, a flood is an excess of water on normally dry land that affects at least two acres or properties. If those conditions aren’t met, flood insurance won’t cover the damage.

However, even if flooding is the direct cause, most policies do not cover:

  • Damage that could have been avoided
  • Damage to trees, decks, and fences
  • Cars and other vehicles
  • Temporary housing and additional living expenses
  • Personal property left in basements

Cost of California Flood Insurance

The Insurance Information Institute (III) found the national average flood insurance premium was $642 per year in 2019. 

Because California is prone to flooding, rates tend to be higher. On average, flood insurance in the Golden State costs just over $800 per year.

Like most things in life, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all flood insurance policy. How much you’ll pay depends on your home and the flood risk in your area. You could also pay a higher or lower rate based on the deductible you choose for your policy. Generally, higher deductibles can lower your premiums and save you money on your flood insurance policy.

California Flood Insurance Quotes

According to the III, California has over 214,000 active flood insurance policies. The NFIP from the federal government provides most policies, and you’re eligible to purchase a policy from the flood insurance program if you’re in a participating community

You can also buy what’s called a write your own (WYO) policy from a private insurer. Private flood insurance typically has more options to customize your policy.

NFIP Insurance Coverage

Government flood insurance is available as a policy from the NFIP. NFIP policies are typically sold through private insurers, such as AAA and Allstate

You can purchase a policy based on replacement cost value (RCV) or actual cost value (ACV). To find a local flood insurance provider in California, visit FloodSmart.gov.

Private Flood Insurance

Private flood insurance is available in California. The state has many participating WYO companies to choose from.

You can choose primary flood insurance similar to an NFIP policy. Private insurers also offer excess flood insurance to supplement a primary policy purchased from the government or private companies.

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Frequently Asked Questions - California Flood Insurance

How long do I have to wait to file a flood insurance claim?

Most flood insurance policies won’t let you file a claim right away. Generally, policies aren’t effective until 30 days after their purchase. There’s an exception if you buy a home in a high-risk area using a federally regulated lender. In that case, you can bypass the 30-day waiting period, and your policy will take effect immediately.

Do I have to buy flood insurance through FEMA?

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides most flood insurance policies throughout the United States. You’re eligible to purchase an NFIP policy if you live in a participating community. However, you can also purchase flood insurance from a private insurer. 

I rent my home. Can I buy flood insurance coverage?

Flood insurance isn’t just for property owners. Renters can purchase flood insurance, too. If you have renters insurance, you’ll need separate flood insurance coverage to protect your personal property in the event of a flood.

The Bottom Line: Flood Insurance California

California doesn’t mandate the purchase of flood insurance. Some lenders require you to purchase a policy, depending on your home’s location and the type of home loan program you used.

Keep in mind that homeowners insurance in California doesn’t cover flood damage. Even if you’re not in a high-risk flood zone, consider purchasing flood insurance. Compare rates from the NFIP against private flood insurance agencies to see which can offer you the cheapest flood insurance in California.

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Updated June 4, 2021

Amy is a content marketing writer who specializes in personal finance and technology. With a background in the legal field, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading and playing board games with her family. You can learn more at amybeardsley.com.