Flood Insurance: What Does It Cover?

Flood insurance covers flooding, which most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover.

Lindsay Frankel
Written byLindsay Frankel
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Lindsay FrankelInsurance Writer
  • 5+ years in auto insurance and personal finance writing

  • Featured in top personal finance publications

Lindsay is a widely published creator of auto insurance content. She also specializes in real estate, banking, credit cards, and other personal finance topics.

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Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
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Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

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Mark Friedlander
Reviewed byMark Friedlander
Mark Friedlander
Mark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
  • Corporate communications director for Insurance Information Institute

  • 20+ years in insurance and communications

As Director, Corporate Communications for Triple-I, Mark serves as the non-profit’s national spokesperson, sharing information and education on a wide array of insurance issues.

Updated January 1, 2024 at 4:00 PM PST

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Flood insurance helps pay to repair or replace your home and your damaged belongings after a covered flood. Among other exclusions, a basic flood insurance policy only covers damage from excess water on the land surrounding your home, and it doesn’t cover sewer backup that isn’t flood-related.[1]

Still, flood insurance is important, and if you live in an area designated as high risk by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), your mortgage lender may require it.[2] Here’s what you need to know about getting flood insurance for your home insurance coverage.

Quick Facts
  • Flood insurance is required for some homeowners who live in FEMA-designated high-risk flood areas and have government-backed mortgages.[2]

  • The average annual cost of flood insurance in 2022 through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was $888.[3]

  • Flood insurance offered through the NFIP comes with exclusions and limits.

Flood insurance explained

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides flood insurance to property owners through a network of more than 50 insurance companies and the NFIP Direct. FEMA manages NFIP Direct, which services flood insurance policies.

The NFIP defines a flood as a temporary excess of water on two or more acres, or two or more properties, that are typically dry. The flooding must come from a source outside your home. Sewer backup in your home doesn’t count as a flood, for example.

A flood insurance policy helps protect you against losses in the event of a flood, in exchange for monthly premiums. If you purchase building and contents coverage from the NFIP, you’ll have coverage for the structure of your home, your personal belongings, and more.

Note that dozens of private flood insurers also sell flood insurance outside of the NFIP and may offer more coverage with fewer exclusions.

For Example

If a nearby lake overflows and causes water to enter your home, the water could destroy your carpeting and wallboards. Flood insurance would help pay to repair or replace them. Just be aware that exclusions exist. For example, if you fail to clean up the damage properly, flood insurance won’t cover the resulting mold.[4]

Do you need flood insurance?

Flooding is a factor in 90% of natural disasters in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). Because flood risk is prevalent throughout the country,l Triple-I recommends all homeowners consider flood insurance.

Homeowners who live in high-risk flood areas and have a government-backed mortgage must purchase a flood insurance policy. Even if you live outside a flood zone, your lender may require flood insurance. And while not all lenders require flood insurance, it’s still a good insurance to have.[2]

Flooding can wreak havoc on your home and leave you with unaffordable expenses that your homeowners insurance policy won’t cover. To get an idea of what a flood may cost you, check out FEMA’s cost of flooding calculator. It’s important to understand that every home is vulnerable to flooding.

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What flood insurance covers

Flood insurance covers the structure of your home and, if you choose, its contents. NFIP policy limits are $250,000 for building coverage and $100,000 for contents coverage for most residential properties.[5]

A basic flood insurance policy from the NFIP covers the following:[4]

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/4ec24627d2/flood-coverage.svg

    Building coverage

    • Building and foundation

    • Electrical systems

    • Heating and cooling equipment

    • Built-in appliances, fridges, and cooking stoves

    • Flooring and carpeting

    • Permanent fixtures, like cabinets

    • Wall blinds

    • Debris removal

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/32ed42213e/personal-property.svg

    Contents coverage

    • Personal property, like clothing and furniture

    • Valuables, like art and jewelry, up to $2,500

    • Curtains

    • Portable appliances and air conditioners

    • Food freezers and food

    • Washers and dryers

What flood insurance doesn’t cover

While flood insurance offers important protection for your home, it doesn’t cover all losses associated with a flood.

Exclusions include:[1]

  • Moisture damage, like preventable mold

  • Cars, other vehicles, and their parts

  • Landscaping

  • Wells and septic systems

  • Property outside of a building, like decks, patios, swimming pools, and hot tubs

  • Personal belongings in the basement

  • Currency, precious metals, and valuable documents

  • Additional living expenses if you can’t live in your home during repairs

  • Lost revenue if the property is for business purposes

In addition, flood insurance doesn’t cover damage water causes in your home that doesn’t meet the definition of a flood. For example, sewer backup isn’t covered unless flooding causes it. 

Also bear in mind that private flood insurance may offer broader coverage for some of the items excluded by the NFIP.

How much does flood insurance cost?

In the U.S., the average price homeowners pay for flood insurance through the NFIP is $888 annually. And 40% of policies cost homeowners $1,000 or less.[3]

However, your individual flood insurance premium will depend on the following factors:

  • The risk of flood perils in your area

  • Your home’s characteristics, like the type of foundation

  • Features that allow your home to withstand flooding, like flood vents

  • Your home’s location and elevation relative to flooding sources

  • The cost to rebuild your home after a flood

  • Levee performance

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How to buy flood insurance

If you need to purchase a flood insurance policy, follow these steps:

  1. Decide if you want private flood insurance. If you’re looking for enhanced coverage, such as coverage for additional living expenses, you may want to consider private companies that offer coverage outside of the NFIP. You may pay more for a private policy.[6] If your community doesn’t participate in the NFIP, you may have no choice but to buy private flood insurance. Private flood insurers account for 32.1% of the U.S. flood insurance market, according to a recent research report from Triple-I.

  2. Find flood insurance companies. If you’d like to purchase flood insurance through the NFIP, you can use the NFIP search tool to locate insurers in your state. 

  3. Compare flood insurance companies. If you buy flood insurance through the NFIP, you’ll pay a standard price no matter which company offers the policy. However, you may want to evaluate customer reviews and customer satisfaction ratings when choosing an insurer. If you’re happy with your home and auto insurer, you may check if it offers flood insurance as well.

  4. Call an insurance agent or get an online quote. Independent agents can get you quotes from both NFIP and private flood insurers that serve your area. Once you’ve chosen a flood insurance company, go through the quote process. Choose a higher deductible if you want a lower premium, but make sure you’ll have enough cash on hand to cover your share of a potential flood insurance claim.

  5. Read and understand the policy before signing. Review the policy carefully and get your questions answered so you understand what’s covered.

  6. Wait 30 days for coverage to kick in. NFIP policies typically come with a 30-day waiting period, unless you’re buying the coverage for a government-backed home or you qualify for other exceptions.[7] Private flood insurers typically have much shorter waiting periods, with many offering waiting periods of 14 days or fewer.

Flood insurance FAQs

It’s important to understand how flood coverage works, especially if you live in a flood-prone area with heavy rain, hurricane seasons, or other risky weather patterns. Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about flood insurance.

  • Is my home at risk of flooding?

    Every home has some flood risk, but some homes are in high-risk flood zones. Homeowners in these areas who have federally backed mortgages are required to have flood insurance. Many private lenders also require flood insurance in high-risk areas. You can assess your home’s flood risk using FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center.

  • Does FEMA offer flood insurance in Florida?

    Yes. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) underwrites about 80% of Florida flood insurance policies.7 In fact, Florida has the highest percentage of homes in any state with a flood policy in effect – about 18%, according to Triple-I. Nationally, just 4% of homes have flood insurance, making flood insurance the largest insurance gap in the country, Triple-I says.

  • Is flood insurance a scam?

    No. Though some scammers take advantage of natural disasters to pose as insurance companies and collect payment information from unsuspecting homeowners, flood insurance itself isn’t a scam. Additionally, the federal government backs most flood insurance policies, but private flood insurers have grown to 32.1% of the total marketplace.

  • Can you pay for flood insurance on a property you don’t own?

    Yes. If you’re a renter, you can get a flood insurance policy that covers your personal belongings in the event of damage or loss from a flood.[8] However, you can’t generally buy insurance for a property you don’t own or live in.

  • Who is responsible for flood insurance, the HOA or the borrower?

    Your homeowner’s association may purchase flood coverage for common property through the Residential Condominium Building Association Policy (RCBAP), but you may have to purchase additional coverage for your individual unit and personal property. If you live in a single-family home, you are responsible for buying flood insurance.

  • Which is better, private flood insurance or NFIP coverage?

    Each type of coverage has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, NFIP coverage has typically been comparatively cheap. But recent changes in the NFIP underwriting program mean significant premium increases are likely for many policyholders.

    Private flood insurance can provide protection in areas where NFIP policies aren't available, and at much higher limits for property and contents. Many private flood insurance policies include loss of use coverage to help with additional living expenses, which NFIP policies don't include. And waiting periods for private flood insurance are typically shorter than the 30-day waiting period for an NFIP policy.

Sources

  1. FEMA. "What Does Flood Insurance Cover?." Accessed October 20, 2023
  2. FEMA. "Do I Need Flood Insurance? What Are The Requirements?." Accessed October 20, 2023
  3. FEMA. "Cost of Flood Insurance for Single-Family Homes under NFIP’s Pricing Approach." Accessed October 20, 2023
  4. National Flood Insurance Program. "Summary of Coverage." Accessed October 20, 2023
  5. National Flood Insurance Program. "NFIP Coverage Limits." Accessed October 20, 2023
  6. Progressive. "Private Flood Insurance vs. NFIP." Accessed October 20, 2023
  7. FEMA. "Flood Insurance." Accessed October 20, 2023
  8. FEMA. "Myths and Facts About Flood Insurance." Accessed October 20, 2023
Lindsay Frankel
Lindsay FrankelInsurance Writer

Lindsay Frankel is a content writer specializing in personal finance and auto insurance topics. Her work has been featured in publications such as LendingTree, The Balance, Coverage.com, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, and FinanceBuzz.

Courtney Mikulski
Edited byCourtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

Featured in

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Mark Friedlander
Reviewed byMark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
Mark Friedlander
Mark FriedlanderDirector, Corporate Communications
  • Corporate communications director for Insurance Information Institute

  • 20+ years in insurance and communications

As Director, Corporate Communications for Triple-I, Mark serves as the non-profit’s national spokesperson, sharing information and education on a wide array of insurance issues.

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