FAQs

Don’t see your question? Visit Answers to Questions about the National Flood Insurance Program.

Why You Need Flood Insurance

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Doesn’t my homeowners insurance policy cover flooding?

No. Flood damage is not typically covered by a homeowners insurance policy.

If my home is flooded, won’t federal disaster assistance pay for my damages?

Not necessarily. Federal disaster assistance is only made available when there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration, and most flood events do not result in a declaration. Federal disaster aid typically comes in the form of low-interest disaster loans that must be repaid, along with whatever loan payment you may already have had for your property. Disaster assistance from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration was not designed to restore your home to its pre-disaster condition or to replace most of your treasured household items.

Flood insurance doesn’t have to be paid back, and it is designed to restore your property to its pre-disaster condition. There’s no better way to protect the life you’ve built than with NFIP flood insurance.

Am I eligible for flood insurance?

To purchase flood insurance from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you must live in a community that participates in the program. Find out if your community participates in the NFIP and discover the NFIP resources available in your community.

Can I get flood insurance if I'm renting a property?

Yes, if you live in a community that participates in the NFIP, you can purchase flood insurance to cover the contents of your home or business. Discuss your options with your insurance agent today.

I live in a low-risk flood zone. Do I really need flood insurance?

Yes. Even though flood insurance isn’t federally required, anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. In fact, policyholders outside of mapped high-risk flood areas file over 20 percent of all NFIP flood insurance claims and receive one-third of federal disaster assistance for flooding. When it’s available, federal disaster assistance is typically a loan you must repay with interest. A Preferred Risk Policy provides both building and contents coverage for properties in moderate- to low-risk areas for one low price. Ask your insurance agent for a quote.

Why do I need flood insurance, even though my community has never been flooded?

Flooding occurs in moderate- to low-risk areas as well as in high-risk areas. Poor drainage systems, rapid accumulation of rainfall, snowmelt and broken water mains can all result in flooding. Properties on a hillside can be damaged by mudflow, a covered peril under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy. In high-risk areas, there is at least a one-in-four chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. For these reasons, flood insurance is required by law for buildings in high-risk flood areas as a condition of receiving a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender.

Why does my mortgage lender require me to buy flood insurance?

Under federal law, the purchase of flood insurance is mandatory for all federal or federally-related financial assistance for the acquisition and/or construction of buildings in high-risk flood areas (Special Flood Hazard Areas or SFHAs).

The amount of flood insurance coverage required by the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973, as amended by the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994, is the least of the following:

  1. The maximum amount of NFIP coverage available for the particular property type;
  2. The outstanding principal balance of the loan; or
  3. The insurable value of the structure.

 

If the property is not in a high-risk area, but instead in a moderate- to low-risk area, federal law does not require flood insurance, however, a lender can still require it. In fact, over 20 percent of all flood insurance claims come from areas outside of mapped high-risk flood zones. Note that if, during the life of the loan, the maps are revised and the property is now in the high-risk area, your lender will notify you that you must purchase flood insurance.

Is there a low-cost policy for homes in moderate- to low-risk areas?

Yes. A Preferred Risk Policy provides both building and contents coverage for properties in moderate- to low-risk areas for one low price as long as the property meets eligibility requirements based on the building’s entire flood loss history.

I'm not in a high-risk area, but I'd like flood coverage. Is this possible?

Yes! You are eligible to purchase a flood policy with the same coverage you would receive if you lived in a high-risk area. That is, of course, as long as your community participates in the NFIP. A Preferred Risk Policy provides both building and contents coverage for properties in moderate- to low-risk areas for one low price.

After my home was damaged in a flood, I received federal disaster assistance. Do I need to purchase flood insurance now?

Yes. If you live in a high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and have received disaster assistance in the form of a federal grant or loan, you must purchase and maintain flood insurance for as long as you live there. If you are a homeowner and you sell the building, you are required to inform the new owner of the necessity to purchase and maintain flood insurance. Failure to maintain flood insurance—for both renters and homeowners—could result in the denial of future federal disaster assistance.

Who do I contact if I want to purchase a flood insurance policy?

The NFIP has an arrangement with private insurance companies to sell and service flood insurance policies. A list of private insurance companies that sell and service NFIP flood insurance policies is available online.

Flood insurance can be purchased through an insurance agent or an insurer participating in the NFIP. If your insurance agent does not sell flood insurance, you can contact the NFIP Help Center at 800-427-4661 for assistance.

What if I want to purchase more insurance than the NFIP offers?

Many private insurance companies offer Excess Flood Protection, which provides limits over and above those of the NFIP. For more information, contact your insurance agent or company.


 

Flood Zones

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What are flood zones?

Flood zones are land areas identified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Each flood zone describes that land area in terms of its risk of flooding for floodplain management and insurance purposes. Everyone lives in an area with some flood risk—it’s just a question of whether you live in a low-, moderate-, or high-risk area.

What is a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), and how do I use it?

A FIRM is a map created by the NFIP for floodplain management and insurance purposes. Digital versions of these maps are called DFIRMs.

A FIRM will generally show a community’s base flood elevations, flood zones and floodplain boundaries. As a property owner/renter, you can use this map to get a reliable indication of what flood zone you're in. However, maps are constantly being updated due to changes in geography, construction and mitigation activities and meteorological events. Therefore, for a truly accurate determination, contact your insurance agent or company or your community floodplain manager. Learn more about FIRMs and your property’s unique flood risk using FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center.

What is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)?

Land areas that are at high-risk for flooding are called Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), or high-risk floodplains. These areas are indicated on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). 

In high-risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage.

What is a Non-Special Flood Hazard Area (NSFHA)?

A Non-Special Flood Hazard Area (NSFHA) is an area that is in a moderate- to low-risk flood zone (Zones B, C, D, and X Pre- and Post-FIRM).

However, it’s important to note that structures within a NSFHA are still at risk. In fact, over 20 percent of all flood insurance claims come from areas outside of mapped high-risk flood zones. Get the facts before you decide that your property is not at risk.

Is there a special risk-rating procedure for coastal high hazard areas (V-zones)?

Yes. When calculating the risk of a V-zone property, FEMA uses a formula that takes into account the ability of the building to withstand the impact of wave action.

What is the Coastal Barrier Resource System (CBRS)?

The CBRS is a system of protected coastal areas that includes ocean-front land, the Great Lakes and Other Protected Areas (OPAs).

Coastal barriers serve as important buffers between coastal storms and inland areas, often protecting properties from serious flood damage. Also, coastal barriers provide a protective habitat for aquatic plants and animals.

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982 restricted development on the CBRS in an effort to protect the barrier system and prevent future flood damage. If you live in a CBRS area, you are eligible for federally regulated flood insurance only if your property was built before 1982 and your community participates in the NFIP.


 

Risk Assessments

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Why do I need flood insurance if I live on a hill?

Floods can occur in any area to varying degrees. If you live on a hill or in an area that has never been flooded, your risk may be significantly reduced, but it is not eliminated.

Flooding can be caused by heavy rains, melting snow, inadequate drainage systems, failed protective devices such as levees and dams and tropical storms and hurricanes. Make an informed decision about the flood risks you face before deciding not to purchase flood insurance. Talk to your agent today. You may qualify for a Preferred Risk Policy (a lower-cost flood insurance policy). 

My community has never been flooded. Why is my property in a moderate- to low-risk area?

Everyone lives in an area with some flood risk. The fact that a flood hasn’t occurred within recorded history does not mean one hasn’t happened in the past or that one will not happen in the future.

It’s important to note that flood history is only one element used in determining flood risk. More critical determinations are made by evaluating your community’s rainfall and river flow data, topography, wind velocity, tidal surge, flood control measures, building development (existing and planned) and community maps.

Where can I find more information on the maps that were used to determine my relative risk level?

FEMA publishes maps indicating a community’s flood hazard areas and the degree of risk in those areas. Flood insurance maps usually are on file in a local repository in the community, such as the planning and zoning or engineering offices in the town hall or the county building.

In addition, you can order maps online or by writing, phoning or faxing a request to the FEMA Flood Map Service Center.


 

Types of Flood Insurance

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How much flood insurance coverage is available?

Flood coverage limits for a standard flood policy are:

Coverage Type Flood Coverage Limit
One to four-family structure $250,000
One to four-family home contents $100,000
Other residential structures $500,000
Other residential contents $100,000
Business structure $500,000
Business contents $500,000
Renter contents $100,000
What is the Preferred Risk Policy (PRP)?

The Preferred Risk Policy offers multiple coverage combinations for both buildings and contents (or contents-only for renters) that are located in moderate- to low-risk areas (B, C, X, AR, and A99 Zones). Preferred Risk Policies are available for residential or non-residential buildings also located in these zones that meet eligibility requirements based on the building’s entire flood loss history.

What is covered in my basement?

Flood insurance covers your home’s foundation elements and equipment that’s necessary to support the structure (furnace, water heaters, circuit breakers, etc.).

It’s important to note that some items in your basement are covered under building coverage (like a furnace, hot water heater and circuit breaker) and others are covered under contents coverage that must be purchased in addition to building coverage (a washer and dryer, a freezer and the food in it).

The NFIP encourages people to purchase both building and contents coverage. Flood insurance does not cover basement improvements, such as finished walls, floors, ceilings or personal belongings that may be kept in a basement. For a complete list of what’s covered, view the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) Forms.

Does flood insurance cover flood damage caused by hurricanes, rivers or tidal waters?

Yes, providing that, if confined to your property, the flood water covers at least two acres. A general condition of flood also exists if two properties are affected, one of which is yours.

Is flood damage from wind-driven rain covered?

No. When rain enters through a wind-damaged window or door, or comes through a hole in a wall or roof, the NFIP considers the resulting puddles and damage to be windstorm-related, not flood-related.

Flood insurance covers overflow of inland or tidal waters and unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source. However, the flood must be 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 yours). Although flood insurance specifically excludes wind and hail damage, most homeowners insurance provides this coverage.

What is Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage?

If a flood damages your home or business, you may be required by law or ordinance to meet certain building compliancy requirements in your community to reduce future flood damage. To help with these costs, the NFIP includes Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage for all eligible properties insured under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy. You may file a claim for your ICC coverage in three instances:

  • If your community determines that your home or business is damaged by a flood to the point that repairs will cost 50 percent or more of the building’s pre-damage market value (a lower threshold can be adopted by law or ordinance). This is called substantial damage.
  • If your community has a repetitive loss provision in its floodplain management ordinance and determines that your home or business was damaged by a flood two times in the past 10 years, where the cost of repairing the flood damage, on the average, equaled or exceeded 25 percent of its market value at the time of each flood. This is called repetitive damage. Additionally, there must have been flood insurance claim payments for each of the two flood losses.
  • If you participate in a FEMA-sponsored grant program and meet eligibility requirements.

 

Read more about ICC


 

Policy Costs and Terms

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How can I get flood insurance?

If you live in a community that participates in the NFIP, you are eligible to purchase flood insurance. Find out if your community is one of more than 22,000 communities that have implemented floodplain management measures and participate in the NFIP. See a list of participating NFIP communities and learn more about NFIP in your community.

To buy a flood insurance policy, call your insurance agent or company or find an agent serving your area.

What will my flood insurance premium cost?

It is essential that you speak with your insurance agent to determine exact costs.

How is my flood insurance premium calculated?

A number of factors are considered when determining your flood insurance premium. These factors include: the amount and type of coverage being purchased, location and flood zone and the design and age of your structure. For homes in high-risk areas (e.g., Special Flood Hazard Areas or AE, VE Zones) built after the first Flood Insurance Rate Maps were drawn for that community, the elevation of the building in relation to the base flood elevation is also required. For more information, see Understanding Costs.

Can I get a discount on my flood insurance premium?

It’s possible that you qualify for a discount based on your community’s participation and status in the Community Rating System program. For more information, visit CRS Ratings and their Classes.

How can I pay for my flood insurance?

You can pay your insurance premium with a credit card (American Express, Diners Club, Discover Card, Master Card or Visa) or with cash, check or money order. Your premium may be paid through an escrow account established by your mortgage lender at your lender’s discretion.

If your lender requires you to buy flood insurance, they must offer to also escrow flood insurance premium payments and fees as of January 1, 2016. Your payment for coverage is due to your agent with your application. For details, ask your insurance agent or lender.

Will there be a waiting period for my policy to take effect?

Most likely. Typically, there’s a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect. Here are the only exceptions:

  • If a building is located in a newly-designated Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), and flood insurance is being purchased within the 13-month period following a map revision.
  • If you purchase flood insurance in connection with making, increasing, extending or renewing your mortgage loan.
  • If an additional amount of insurance is selected as an option on the renewal bill.
  • If a property is affected by flooding on burned federal land that is a result of, or is exacerbated by, post-wildfire conditions when the policy is purchased within 60 days of the fire containment date.

 

What is the policy term for NFIP insurance?

One year.

Does a deductible apply to my coverage?

Separate deductibles apply to building and contents coverages. This means that if your building and contents are both damaged due to a flood event, both deductibles are applied.

For more information about deductibles, contact your insurance agent or company.

How many structures (and their contents) may be insured on each policy?

Only one building and its contents can be insured by each policy.

Is there a ‘grace period’ after a policy has expired?

All policies expire at 12:01 a.m. on the last day of the effective term, but you remain covered for 30 days after the expiration of the policy. Claims for losses that occur in this grace period will be honored, provided that the full renewal premium is paid by the end of the 30-day period.

Don’t let your flood policy lapse. Doing so could cause you to lose any discounted rates you have been receiving. And you may not be in compliance with the terms of your mortgage agreement (if your lender requires flood insurance coverage).

Will damage-preventing measures I’ve taken for my home be reimbursed by my Standard Flood Insurance Policy if a flood is imminent?

Maybe. When your insured home is in imminent danger of being flooded, you may receive up to a $1,000 reimbursement for your damage-preventing expenses. Things like renting storage space to protect your belongings, buying sandbags and lumber to make a barricade and renting pumps are all things that qualify for reimbursement. No deductible is applied to this coverage.


 

Hurricane Preparations

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What can I do to protect my home and family from a hurricane?

Besides insuring your property, there are things you can do to prepare for a hurricane to minimize potential loss to your home and ensure your family's safety.

 

Remember to talk to your insurance agent if you have questions or would like additional information.

Is my community at risk for hurricanes?

Nearly every year since 1851, at least one hurricane has reached the United States. On average, there are six hurricanes in a season. As all hurricanes weaken to tropical storms and move inland, the threat of torrential rains over large areas intensifies the risk of flooding for inland communities and states. Flooding from hurricanes can occur hundreds of miles from the coast placing communities that would not normally be affected by the strongest hurricane winds in great danger. Although any coastal area is at risk, certain cities are particularly vulnerable and may have incurred losses even higher than those incurred when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

Has a disaster been declared for my area?

Check the FEMA disaster declarations page for the latest information.

I don’t have flood insurance, but doesn’t my homeowners insurance cover this?

Most homeowners insurance does NOT cover damage or losses from flooding. Some damage to your property may have been caused by something other than flooding. Look at your policy and see your homeowners insurance agent for more information about what types of damage are covered by your policy.

How do I file a flood insurance claim?

Read the steps on how to file a claim. For in-depth answers regarding claims and the flood insurance claims process, please read the Flood Insurance Claims Handbook.

How can I tell what caused the damage to my property?

Flooding is defined as rising waters. Damage caused by falling water and wind is not considered flood damage. Talk to your flood insurance agent and/or your homeowners insurance company for more information about what is covered under your policy. Use the Flood Insurance Claims Handbook as a reference.

What is Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) Coverage?

If a flood damages your home or business, you may be required by law or ordinance to meet certain building compliancy requirements in your community to reduce future flood damage. To help with these costs, the National Flood Insurance Program includes Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage for all eligible properties insured under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy. You may file a claim for your Increased Cost of Compliance coverage (ICC) in three instances:

  • If your community determines that your home or business is damaged by a flood to the point that repairs will cost 50 percent or more of the building’s pre-damage market value (a lower threshold can be adopted by law or ordinance). This is called substantial damage.
  • If your community has a repetitive loss provision in its floodplain management ordinance and determines that your home or business was damaged by a flood two times in the past 10 years, and the cost of repairing the flood damage, on average, equaled or exceeded 25 percent of its market value at the time of each flood. This is called repetitive damage. Additionally, there must have been flood insurance claim payments for each of the two flood losses.
  • If you participate in a FEMA-sponsored grant program and meet eligibility requirements.

 

Read more about ICC.