Does my homeowners insurance cover flooding?

Standard homeowners policies do not cover flooding. You can purchase flood coverage directly through your homeowners insurance agent. However, the policy is provided by the Federal Flood Insurance Program ( 888-379-9531, ).

Replacement cost coverage is available for the structure of your home, but only actual cash value coverage is available for your possessions. Replacement cost coverage pays to rebuild your home as it was before the damage. Actual cash value is replacement cost coverage minus depreciation so that the older your possessions are, the less you will get if they are damaged. There may also be limits on coverage for furniture and other belongings stored in your basement.

Flood insurance is available for renters as well as homeowners. You will need flood insurance if you live in a designated flood zone. But flooding can also occur in inland areas and away from major rivers. Consider buying a flood insurance policy if your house could be flooded by melting snow, an overflowing creek or pond or water running down a steep hill. Don’t wait for a flood season warning on the evening news to buy a policy—there is a 30-day waiting period before the coverage takes effect.

The federal flood insurance program provides only limited coverage. If you need more coverage than the federal program provides, additional coverage known as “excess” flood insurance is available from specialized insurance companies. Depending on the amount of coverage purchased, an excess flood insurance policy will cover damage above the limits of the federal program on the same basis as the federal program—replacement cost for the structure and actual cash value for the contents.

Excess flood insurance is available in all parts of the country—in high risk flood zones along the coast and close to major rivers as well as in areas of lower risk—wherever the federal program is available. It can be purchased from specialized companies such as Lexington Insurance Company, part of American International Insurance Company, and Lloyd’s through independent insurance agents, or from regular homeowners insurance companies that have arrangements with a specialized insurer to provide coverage to their policyholders.

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