The Importance of Flood Insurance

On Friday September 14, 2018 the east coast of the US was once again hit with a catastrophic hurricane which caused massive amounts of property damage to thousands of homeowners. While some of the damage sustained by Hurricane Florence was due to wind, the majority of the damage was due to catastrophic flooding caused by storm surge, rivers and creeks breaching their banks, and over 25 inches of rain in some areas. As a result, many homeowners suffered significant water damage to their homes.

The National Flood Insurance Program defines a flood as: 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 (one of which is your property) from: a. Overflow of inland or tidal waters, b. Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, c. Mudflow. On the other hand, water damage generally occurs when water (typically wind-driven rain) enters your home and creates a covered loss – for instance, the roof has missing shingles and rain enters through these areas of weakness.

A homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover damage to a home caused by flooding. Only flood insurance provides coverage for damage to your home sustained by flooding.

Below are a few examples of flooding that homeowner’s insurance policies will not cover:

  • When tidal water rises above the normal high tide mark and forces its way into your home
  • When a creek or river overflows its banks and forces its way into your home
  • When a heavy rainfall pools around your home and forces its way into your home
  • Seepage – underground water or subsurface water that exerts pressure on or flows through foundations, walls, floors, windows, doors …

And here are a few examples of water damage that are typically covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy:

  • If a branch falls from a tree during a storm and damages your roof, allowing rain to enter your home
  • When a home’s roof shingles are damaged or missing and rain leaks into the home through these areas of weakness
  • When a pipe bursts in your home and damages your property

Recent major hurricanes, which have caused catastrophic damage to the U.S, are now occurring at alarmingly frequent rates: Andrew struck in Aug. 1992, Katrina in Aug. 2005, Irene in Aug. 2011, Sandy in Oct. 2012, , Matthew in Aug. 2017 and now Florence in Sept. 2018. It should be obvious to all that major destructive hurricanes must no longer be thought of as “once in a 100 year events” as the media so often likes to label them. Due to the effects of global warming, major hurricanes must now be considered regularly occurring events.

Homeowners, condo owners, dwelling owners, and all property owners in general must understand that hurricanes capable of producing major property damage are now a regular part of life. As such, they should be looking for ways to mitigate the very real potential for financial loss due to these storms. As many of these recent hurricanes have proven, your home does not need to be located in a FEMA designated “high risk” flood zone in order to suffer damage caused by hurricane flooding. If 12 to 25 inches of rain fall in a very short period of time near your property, it is very possible that water will pool up around your home and find its way in, causing significant damage.

While a homeowner insurance policy or dwelling fire insurance policy generally provides coverage due to damage sustained from wind, only a flood insurance policy provides coverage due to the flooding caused by a hurricane.

Generally speaking, a flood insurance policy for a home that is not located in a “high risk” flood area can be affordable. What is not so affordable is when you have no flood insurance coverage, and you end up having to pay for the flood damage to your property out of your own pocket.

This is why I urge all property owners to contact a licensed insurance agent to learn more about securing a flood insurance policy on their home.

Remember, just because your home is not located in a “high risk” flood zone does not mean your home is not susceptible to flooding.