Flood Risks and Insurance
Get smart about your flood risk
Flooding can happen anywhere it rains, not just in coastal communities. As little as an inch of water can cause $25,000 or more in damage to your home1, putting millions of homes at risk in the US.
It’s important to understand the risks your home or surrounding areas face from flooding so you can determine the protection you need. You may have to do your own research since flood information is not always provided when you purchase or rent a home. Many states don’t require sellers to inform potential buyers that a property was damaged by a flood or has a flood risk. Renters are even less likely to receive this information.
Even if you're not required to have flood insurance, it's still a good idea to consider whether it's right for you.
Research Your Home’s Risk
Start your research by checking the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zone maps, available for communities all over the US. The maps allow you look up your neighborhood, confirm whether or not you live in a FEMA-designated flood zone, and identify the type of flood zone.
Protect Your Home Against Floods
Your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy likely covers water damage if it’s caused by something in your home like a burst pipe or overflowing bathtub. But it generally doesn’t cover damages from water coming from outside your home, like storm surge or an overflowing creek.
Damages from large floods may be eligible for some federal disaster assistance. But flood insurance will pay claims even if your home is in a community that’s not declared a disaster area. That’s a benefit of having insurance since many floods don’t result in a disaster declaration.
Flood Insurance Requirements
If your home is in a designated FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), flood insurance is legally required for most mortgage financing. Your lender will tell you if your home is in an SFHA that triggers a flood insurance requirement. But even if you don’t live in an SFHA, you may still choose to buy insurance to protect yourself and your family.
If you’re a renter and your home is in a flood zone, your landlord’s policy generally won’t protect your personal property. While most localities don’t require flood insurance for renters, some landlords may.
Even if you’re not required to have flood insurance, it’s still a good idea to assess your risk and decide whether it’s the right option for you. This is especially important if your property or community has experienced a flood in the past or you live near water like lakes, streams, or rivers.
As you begin thinking about flood insurance options, consider these steps to make the best decision for your specific situation:
- Weigh the pros and cons of a flood insurance policy carefully.
- Familiarize yourself with the insurance policies that you already have and what they cover.
- If you have a mortgage, determine whether insurance premiums are paid through escrow as part of your monthly mortgage payment.
- Have an annual conversation with your insurance provider to discuss the best ways protect your home and family.
- Stay informed about FEMA’s program updates, flood zone map changes, and what your policy covers.
- FEMA updates maps on a regular basis to include things like new construction that could change where stormwater goes.
Check FEMA’s flood zone maps to determine the risk for your home and community. If you decide flood insurance is right for you, reach out to insurance providers for estimates. Flood insurance policies can be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is managed by FEMA, or a private insurer.
- FloodSmart.gov is the website for the National Flood Insurance Program.
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners has resources on flood insurance and other insurance products that may be appropriate for you.
- “Which disasters are covered by homeowners insurance?” is a helpful article from the Insurance Information Institute.
- National Association of REALTORS® survey describing mandated property disclosures related to flood hazards in each state.
- Flood Safety Tips and Resources from the National Weather Service.
- Flooding news and updates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Severe Weather 101 – Floods offers in-depth education from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.
1 “The Cost of Flooding,” FloodSmart (FEMA), https://www.floodsmart.gov/flood-insurance-cost/calculator.