Updated September 7, 2021
Reading time: 5 minutes
This comprehensive guide will give you all the basics you need to properly protect your home or business.
New Orleans, Louisiana, has a long history of withstanding hurricanes and subsequent flooding. With levees, canals, and sophisticated drainage systems, NOLA may seem fairly well-protected from flooding, but catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina show that widespread flooding should still be a major concern for all property owners.
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Given the regularity of the region’s hurricane season, as well as the city’s history, flood insurance is definitely a must-have. Even though Louisiana law does not mandate that every property owner have flood insurance, many federally backed mortgage lenders can require those living in high-risk flood zones to enroll in flood insurance. Also, if you live in a low-risk or moderate-risk area, you won’t necessarily be safe from floodwaters. As much as 20 percent of all flood claims come from areas deemed safer than high-risk areas.
In short, you should definitely invest in flood insurance. There is no guarantee that flooding will spare your property, so why not spend the extra money to make sure you’re financially protected?
The greater New Orleans area holds a handful of different classifications that determine a given district’s level of flood risk. Luckily for residents, getting a sense of what kind of flood zone you live or work in can be fairly easy to do, as you can visit floodsmart. gov and navigate to the Flood Map Service Center (MSC). Once in the flood map, you can search your property’s address and verify its designation. Here’s a quick guide on how to properly determine whether you live in a high-risk flood area:
Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs): If you live in a zone labeled Zone A, Zone AO, Zone AH, Zones A1–A30, Zone AE, Zone A99, Zone AR, Zone V, Zone VE, Zones V1–V30, or a combination of these, then your property is in an SFHA, or high-risk flood zone. This indicates that the given area is part of a 100-year floodplain and has a chance of equaling or exceeding the base flood elevation. SFHAs have a much higher risk of flooding at some point during a 30-year mortgage term.
Moderate Flood Hazard Areas: If your property appears in Zone B or in a shaded Zone X on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), then your property is in a moderate-risk area. These flood zones indicate that the given area is part of a 500-year floodplain, meaning that the area has a lower risk of flooding than an SFHA.
Low Flood Hazard Areas: If your area appears as Zone C or as an unshaded Zone X on a Flood Insurance Rate Map, then your property is in a low-risk area. These flood zones typically have a much higher elevation than others or have less of a chance of flooding than a Moderate Flood Hazard Area.
What’s Covered with New Orleans Flood Insurance?
Home insurance policies, while they do offer some slim water damage coverage (only in the event of faulty plumbing systems), do not offer any flood insurance coverage. Flood insurance policies, on the other hand, come in two different forms: building/dwelling coverage and contents coverage. It should be noted that, depending on the insurer, you may have to purchase two separate policies to cover each aspect of flood insurance coverage.
Building coverage protects the actual physical structure of your property, along with a handful of permanent fixtures:
Refrigerators, cooking stoves, dishwashers, furnaces, water heaters, and other non-portable appliances
Electrical and plumbing systems
Solar energy equipment, fuel tanks, and well-water pumps
Walls, staircases, and anchorage systems
Central air conditioning
Permanent installations, such as carpeting and paneling
Contents coverage focuses more on protecting items contained within your home, such as:
Smaller appliances, such as microwave ovens, washers, dryers, and portable air conditioners
Personal property, such as clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment
Carpeting installed over wood flooring
Highly valuable objects, such as jewelry and fine art (though these will have specific coverage limits)
Before you sign up for a given plan, make sure you read the fine print to get a crystal clear idea of what the plan covers, as well as how much it will cover for each aspect of the property that is covered. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you won’t be surprised by unknown coverage gaps or limits.
As with any insurance policy, there are limits and exceptions to what a policy covers. The first and most important distinction is that water damage to your home or business must come from flooding. According to the terms of insurance policies, the definition of a flood is “a natural inundation of water in a normally dry place, affecting at least two acres of land or two properties.” If the water damage is not flood damage or does not fit the above definition, the damage will simply not be covered.
Aside from that crucial point, there are a few other items that your flood insurance policy will not cover:
Loss of income to business owners caused by the disruption of business operations
Features outside of the main building structure, such as fences, patios, swimming pools, or decks
Precious metals or papers, such as currency or stocks
Automobiles or other vehicles (these will need to be covered by auto insurance )
Temporary living expenses incurred if your home is uninhabitable due to flooding (these will require another home insurance endorsement)
As mentioned previously, reading up on the details of a given plan will help you greatly in understanding the plan’s exceptions and limitations.
Flood insurance plans are generally less expensive than homeowners insurance policies; however, that doesn’t mean that flood insurance is cheap. The average New Orleanian policyholder pays roughly $650 per year or around $54.16 per month.
It would be best to take into account the different sources of flood insurance costs. Varying insurance companies and insurance agencies can bring an equally varied set of costs.
Generally speaking, there are two surefire ways to get flood insurance in New Orleans:
The National Flood Insurance Program is offered by the federal government and is designed to provide flood insurance to homeowners and business owners across the country. The program itself is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ), which essentially regulates policies offered by major insurance companies, such as Farmers and Allstate. Overall, NFIP policies are fairly straightforward in terms of cost and comprehensive in terms of coverage offered.
In need of extra help to navigate policy details and costs? Then it might make sense to contact an insurance agent to walk you through the process and give you solid flood insurance quotes. You can also visit both fema. gov and floodsmart. gov for more information.
The NFIP is a great source of flood insurance. However, there are plenty of private flood insurance providers out there that offer alternative plans. Given the private nature of these insurance sources, the plans themselves have a lot more potential to be extremely dialed-in to your specific situation and needs. With that in mind, be sure to consider that the costs of these plans can be as varied as their sources, so read up on plan details to get a clear sense of their costs.
If you’re a renter and not an owner, then you’re not without recourse. Renters insurance is a great resource for renters looking to protect their personal property from a wide variety of perils. However, renters insurance does not cover flood damage on its own, so you’ll need to enroll in a renters flood insurance policy to obtain coverage. If you already have renters insurance, the best option would be to contact your renters insurance company to see if they offer flood insurance.
The idea of a “100-year flood” sounds a bit intense. Luckily, this term is simply an indicator of a flood that is so severe that it might only happen once every 100 years. This would mean that such a flood would have a 1 percent chance of occurring during a given year.
The vast majority of flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before you can file claims. With that in mind, you should definitely consider signing up for flood insurance as soon as you can. If you know a flood is on the horizon and try to get some coverage at the 11th hour, you’ll be liable for all the damage your property sustains.
Louisiana is one of the wettest states in the United States when it comes to rainfall. For New Orleans, the threat of flooding is exacerbated by the many nearby sources of water, including lakes and coastlines, that could flood during heavy rain or hurricanes. So if you’re living in or running a business in NOLA, why not protect your property with flood insurance coverage?
Ready to get your search started? Take advantage of Insurify for detailed information and a side-by-side comparison to find the best plan in no time!
Originally from Los Angeles, California, Adrian Coto is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of the NYU Creative Writing MFA program, he's worked as a legal assistant, a law school administrator, and now as a copywriter and editor.Learn More