It seems that 100-year floods are beginning to occur a little more often than advertised, and it is obvious for most non-scientists that something is going on with the climate. Maybe that is one of the reasons why the National Flood Insurance Program is $20.5 billion in debt after a $16 billion bailout in 2017. Congress has yet to reauthorize the program, which is set to expire on July 31. Numerous major flooding events have already struck the United States this year, and the hurricane season just started.
The reason why the National Flood Insurance Program is so important is that regular homeowner’s insurance does not cover loss due to floods and most homeowners have no idea what qualifies as a flood. Everyone understands what constitutes a river, lake or tidal flooding. However, a flood can be water from a rogue summertime thunderstorm that puts water into two or more houses or inundates two acres or more of normally dry land. For instance, a summertime afternoon thunderstorm in Florida that produces 5 inches of rain in an hour on a road with a clogged drainage ditch could flood several homes. If this scenario occurs, the homeowners will need flood insurance. Even in a hurricane, water surges are not covered by homeowner’s insurance — just the wind-driven water damage above the flood line.
Having flood insurance in Florida makes sense when you look at the map. The state is surrounded by water on three sides and it has major lakes and rivers throughout the state.
The National Flood Insurance Program works differently from your regular homeowner’s policy. It is a separate policy that you can normally buy from your insurance agent. The price of the insurance depends on where your home is placed on the FEMA flood maps and the elevation of your home. A homeowner whose house is in a flood zone can get an Elevation Certificate from a surveyor, which can help with the cost of flood insurance.
The other bit of bad news regarding flood insurance is that it has coverage limitations of $250,000. Plus, it does not cover replacement cost — just value. There is also flood insurance for personal property, which can cover up to $100,000. Your insurance agent can provide you with rates and coverage limitations for your property. With flood insurance being a government-backed program, it is usually affordable unless you are in a high-risk zone.
The updates in the FEMA flood maps have placed homes in flood zones that previously were not in one. If you own a property, talk to your insurance agent. Before you purchase property, check the FEMA flood maps and talk to your agent about insurability. Know your flood zone before buying.
The most asked question about flood insurance is, “Should I buy it?” The answer is, “Yes, most definitely if you are in an area prone to flooding.” Your homeowner’s policy will not help you if there is a flood. If you are in an area that is not in a flood zone, the question becomes trickier. If your neighborhood is prone to street flooding or you have an area by your home that holds water, flood insurance is a cheap investment. If you have a home in which a swimming pool could flood your home — that could be a reason depending on surrounding conditions.
Areas that have been dry for generations are prone to flooding nowadays. There is little doubt that more homeowners should consider buying flood insurance, considering their proximity to so much water and potential flooding. When in doubt — buy it.
Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply Inc. He is also the host of the Around the House radio show heard every Monday at noon on My790AM WLBE in Leesburg.