Bad Weather & Flood Insurance

Courtesy of A full moon and high winds caused significant tidal flooding during last weekend’s east coast blizzard.

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. However, flood coverage is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers.

Congress created the NFIP in 1968 in response to the rising cost of taxpayer-funded disaster relief for flood victims and the increasing amount of damage caused by floods. The NFIP makes federally backed flood insurance available in communities that agree to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. The NFIP is self-supporting for the average historical loss year. This means that unless there is a widespread disaster, operating expenses and flood insurance claims are financed through premiums collected.

The NFIP provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and up to $100,000 for personal possessions. Private flood insurance is available for those who need additional insurance protection, known as excess coverage, over and above the basic policy or for people whose communities do not participate in the NFIP. Some insurers have introduced special policies for high-value properties. These policies may cover homes in noncoastal areas and/or provide enhancements to traditional flood coverage. The comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy includes coverage for flood damage.

A 2015 poll by the Insurance Information Institute found that 14 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy. This percentage has been at about the same level every year since 2009. The percentage of homeowners with flood insurance was highest in the South, at 21 percent, compared with 20 percent in 2014. Eleven percent of homeowners in the Northeast had a flood insurance policy, which is unchanged from 2014. Nine percent of homeowners in the West had a flood insurance policy, compared with 8 percent in 2014, while 10 percent of homeowners in the Midwest had flood insurance, compared with 7 percent in 2014.

  • As of October 2015, 79 insurance companies participated in the Write Your Own program, started in 1983, in which insurers issue policies and adjust flood claims on behalf of the federal government under their own names.
  • As of August 2015, 67 percent of policies covered single family homes, 21 percent covered condominiums, and 6 percent covered businesses and other non-residential properties. Two- to four-family unitsand other residential policies accounted for the remainder.
  • Superstorm Sandy,which occurred in October 2012, resulted in $8.0 billion in NFIP payouts as of October 2015, second only to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina with $16.3 billion in payouts.

Superstorm Sandy was the second costliest U.S. flood, based on National Flood Insurance Program payouts as of June 2015. The figures below are preliminary, as claims are still being processed.

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