Updated August 5, 2021
Reading time: 3 minutes
The usual waiting period is 10–30 days, depending on the provider.
Flooding is not only the most common natural disaster in the U.S. but also the most costly—and it can occur almost anywhere, not just in high-risk flood zones. An average of 25–30 percent of all flood claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program are for properties outside of high-risk areas, according to floodsmart.gov.
Many homeowners mistakenly believe that their home insurance will protect them from flood damage. It won’t. You need a separate flood insurance policy to cover damage caused by flooding. And you can’t wait until a flood is imminent to buy your flood policy, because there’s almost always a waiting period. Get prepared now by investigating flood insurance policies with our guide.
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Flood insurance policies usually have a waiting period of 10 to 30 days. Why is there a difference? It depends on whether you have coverage through a private flood policy or through the National Flood Insurance Program ( NFIP ). Private policies usually have a waiting period of around two weeks. NFIP policies, which are sold through private insurers but are underwritten by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ), usually don’t kick in for 30 days.
It’s very hard to get flood insurance immediately, especially if this is your initial purchase of flood insurance. Usually, the only way you can avoid the waiting period is by making changes to an existing policy around the time it’s due for renewal. Even in those circumstances, you would probably only be eligible for immediate coverage if your mortgage company required the change or if an adjuster decided your property was in a special risk category.
If your mortgage lender is requiring you to buy or extend private flood insurance, that may reduce your waiting time. If you use your mortgage loan to pay for your flood insurance, there may not be a waiting period for the insurance to start. If you’re using any other source of payment, the wait is typically 10 days after the date of purchase.
There are a few ways you may be able to skip the waiting period.
For private coverage, if you decide to replace your current NFIP policy with private coverage when it’s time to renew, you likely won’t have to deal with a waiting period. You would have to provide a signed application and payment within 30 days of when your old policy expired, and then your new policy would go into effect.
If you have flood insurance through the NFIP, it’s a little harder to get the 30-day waiting period waived, but there are still a few exceptions that you may be able to take advantage of. The NFIP may not make you wait 30 days if:
You are buying new flood insurance or adding to an existing flood policy because of a mortgage or loan. Like private insurance, you may be able to get around the waiting period if your mortgage lender is requiring you to buy flood insurance. There’s also no waiting period if you already have flood insurance and you’re just adding to an existing policy because your lender is requiring it.
Your home is located on burned federal land. Wildfire damage can also increase the flood risks in nearby areas. When fires occur on federal land, adjusters determine whether the destruction from the fire could increase flood risks for nearby communities. If flooding is more likely, the adjuster will set a fire containment date, which is the date that the fire was brought under control. You have 60 days from the containment date to buy new flood insurance without being subject to the waiting period.
Your home was assigned to a Special Flood Hazard Area ( SFHA ). FEMA constantly reassesses the risk of flood hazards across the U.S. It’s possible that FEMA might reassess the location of your property and see that you have a higher risk of flooding than you used to. FEMA ’s flood map revision would mean that you would have a waiting period of only one day if you revise your policy at renewal time.
You are increasing your existing flood insurance coverage. You don’t have to wait 30 days to increase your coverage, as long as you do it during the renewal period. Your insurer will let you know how much to increase your coverage to keep up with inflation. If you increase your policy more than they suggest, you need to do it 30 days before your renewal period; otherwise, the 30-day waiting period will still apply.
See more: Flood Insurance Quotes
If your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can insure a single-family home for up to $250,000 of building coverage, as well as personal property/contents coverage up to $100,000.
You can buy both private and NFIP flood insurance through insurance agents with private insurance companies. If you can’t find an agent who sells flood insurance, call the NFIP Referral Call Center at 1 (800) 427-4661.
No. Most people who live in participating communities can buy flood insurance backed by the federal government, including renters, condo unit owners, and non-residential property owners.
In many cases, the waiting period will still apply, so it’s vital that you sign up for your flood insurance policy as soon as you can, especially if you live in a high-risk flood area. The sooner you buy your policy, the sooner it will kick in to protect your most important assets.
Jackie Cohen is an editorial manager at Insurify specializing in property & casualty insurance educational content. She has years of experience analyzing insurance trends and helping consumers better understand their insurance coverage to make informed decisions about their finances.
Jackie's work has been cited in USA Today, The Balance, and The Washington Times.Learn More