Volume 1 Number 38
September 20, 2004










TEXT VERSION

 


FLOOD LOSSES AREN'T COVERED BY YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE POLICY

Here's how "flood" is defined by the National Flood Insurance Program:

"A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is the policyholder's property) from:

  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or
  • Mudflow; or
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above."

So, in plain English, a flood is an excess of water (or mud) on land that's normally dry.

Floods often happen when bodies of water overflow or tides rise due to heavy rainfall or thawing snow. But you don't have to live near water to be at risk of flooding. A flash flood, which can strike anywhere without warning, occurs when a large volume of rain falls within a short time.

More and more buildings, roads and parking lots are being built where forests and meadows used to be, which decreases the land's natural ability to absorb water. Coupled with changing weather patterns, this construction has made recent floods more severe and increased everyone's chance of being flooded.

Dangerous or damaging floods don't always mean dramatic, rushing waters through the streets of your hometown. Just a single inch of water can cause costly damage to your home! Keep this in mind when you're considering flood insurance.

There's something you should know: Flood losses aren't covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

Floodwaters have the power to damage not only your home and sense of security, but also your financial future. How can you protect your most important investment in case of flooding?

Option 1: Hope that you'll receive Federal disaster relief if a flood hits.

Many people wrongly believe that the U.S. government will take care of all their financial needs if they suffer damage due to flooding. The truth is that Federal disaster assistance is only available if the President formally declares a disaster. Even if you do get disaster assistance, it's often a loan you have to repay, with interest, in addition to your mortgage loan that you still owe on the damaged property.

Most importantly, you must consider the fact that if your home is flooded and disaster assistance isn't offered, you'll have to shoulder the massive damage costs alone.

The bottom line? If you're looking for secure protection from financial loss due to flood damage, Federal disaster assistance is not the answer.

Option 2: Buy flood insurance and stay protected no matter what.

When disaster strikes, flood insurance policyholder claims are paid even if a disaster is not Federally declared.

Flood insurance means you'll be reimbursed for all your covered losses. And unlike Federal aid, it never has to be repaid.

As long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you're eligible to purchase flood insurance. To find out if your community participates, check the Community Status Book on FEMA.gov.

As a homeowner, you can insure your home up to $250,000 and its contents up to $100,000. If you're a renter, you can cover your belongings up to $100,000. As a non-residential property owner, you can insure your building and its contents up to $500,000.

In general, a policy does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase flood insurance. So, if the weather forecast announces a flood alert for your area and you go to purchase coverage, it's already too late. You will not be insured if you buy a policy a few days before a flood.

A flood insurance policy is easy to get, affordable and offers invaluable peace of mind. With flood insurance, you know you're covered no matter what.

Unlike a standard homeowners policy, flood insurance covers losses to your property caused by flooding.

Some of the things a standard flood policy will cover include:

  • structural damage
  • furnace, water heater and air conditioner
  • flood debris clean up
  • floor surfaces such as carpeting and tile

You can also buy a flood insurance policy to cover the contents of your home, such as furniture, collectibles, clothing, jewelry and artwork.

Policies are available in three forms: Dwelling (most homes), General Property (apartments and businesses), and Residential Condominium Building Association (condominiums).

It's important to know that if you have a federally backed mortgage on a home located in a high-risk zone, federal law requires you to purchase flood insurance. Also, if you've received a federal grant for previous flood losses, you must have a flood policy to qualify for future aid.

Buying flood insurance is the best thing you can do to protect your home, your business, family, and financial security.