Flooding is the nation’s number one natural disaster. While floods occur in every area of the country, many property owners remain unprepared. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a Federal program enabling property owners in participating communities to purchase insurance as a protection against flood losses. Participating in the NFIP is based on an agreement between communities and the Federal Government. The program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and provides flood insurance protection to property owners, renters, and business owners in communities that participate in the program.
How Flood Insurance Works
As long as a community participates in the NFIP, residents are eligible to purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance is sold to property owners through two mechanisms: 1) through state licensed property and casualty insurance agents and brokers who deal directly with FEMA; and 2) private insurance companies through a program created in 1983 known as “Write Your Own”.
Consumers should talk to their insurance agent if they have questions, would like additional information and/or are ready to purchase a flood insurance policy. The policy will take effect 30 days after it is purchased. However, if you buy a house in a designated high-risk area and receive a mortgage loan from a Federally regulated lender, by law, the lender must require the borrower to purchase and regularly renew flood insurance.Â In this case, the policy will take effect immediately and the borrower does not have to wait 30 days.
Flood Insurance Coverage Works
In general, coverage is provided for direct physical loss to the property from a flood which is described 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 (at least 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 – defined as a river of liquid and flowing mud on the surfaces of normally dry land areas such as when earth is carried by a current of water. Landslide, slope failures, or saturated soil moving down a slope are not mudflows.
In general, the policy excludes losses caused by:
Earth movement, even if the earth movement is caused by flood. Examples of excluded earth movement include:
- Land subsidence;
- Destabilization or movement of land resulting from accumulation of water;
- Gradual erosion;
The maximum limits available are:
Residential – $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for the personal property
Commercial- $500,000 for the structure and $500,000 for the contents
The California Department of Insurance does not regulate the National Flood Insurance Program. However, consumers may obtain more information through the FEMA at 1-800-638-6620 or at the National Flood Insurance Program web site.