Regular homeowner’s policies do not typically cover losses due to flooding. Flood insurance is a specialized type of insurance that addresses this issue. It covers losses from many kinds of flooding. Rising rivers, lakes, streams and creeks all damage homes and businesses. So does melting snow, heavy rain, prolonged rain, and breached levees.
Flooding is more common than you might imagine. FEMA calculates a one-in-four chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. Those lower-risk areas are also caught off-guard. The Center for Insurance Policy and Research says about half of all losses happen outside of 100-year flood plains.
How Flood Insurance Works
Flood insurance covers your home, while optional contents insurance covers your belongings. There are limits to what flood insurance will cover. Make sure all property gets covered through one insurance policy or another. The cost of flood insurance is often less than imagined. For example, those living in areas with a lower flood risk may qualify for preferred-risk coverage at a lower cost.
When you get flood insurance there’s a waiting period before there’s coverage, however this usually only applies to FEMA policies. The wait is 30 days and this requirement is waived when you purchase property with a mortgage.
Flood Insurance Sources: Public vs. Private
When you purchase flood insurance you will have the option of purchasing the National Flood Insurance Program (public) or going through a private insurer. This simply means you can either purchase your insurance from the government program known as FEMA or you can buy from a regular insurance carrier in the market. If you have a mortgage there are certain restrictions on the type of coverage you can buy. For example if you have an FHA loan you’ll be required to purchase the NFIP plan where as other loan types (conventional, VA, USDA) don’t have this requirement.
The National Flood Insurance Program has been around for more than a half-century. It is a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The NFIP has raised flood insurance premiums to compensate for years of running multi-billion-dollar deficits. Private insurers now offer the same flood insurance, often at lower rates. They’ve also brought computer modeling and advanced analytics to the business. Updated maps better identify actual flood risk, and sometimes this also lowers rates.
The NFIP plan has limits on how much coverage you can purchase. For example the max amount of coverage on any one building is $250,000. If you wish to cover your personal belongings withing that building you’ll have a max of $100,000 available to purchase. The NFIP will also exclude coverage for personal belongings in your basement.
Private insurers often offer enhanced coverage options not available through the federal program. Higher coverage limits are possible. Private insurers offer higher limits, often as high as $1,000,000 for the building and contents. The cost of private flood insurance is usually significantly less than the NFIP. There’s also the option of added coverage for:
- Temporary living expenses
- Reimbursement for basement contents
- Cost of pool repairs (and refilling)
- Detached structure coverage.
Neptune, Palomar Specialty, and Lloyd’s of London are just a few of the options available to purchase for private flood insurance in Pennsylvania.
Flood Prone Areas in Pennsylvania
The Susquehanna River is the nation’s 16th largest river. The 464-mile-long waterway drains 27,510 square miles. In many parts of Pennsylvania, dramatic topography increases flood risk. River tributaries often wind through steeper terrain. When very heavy rain and/or snow melt besieges the region, flooding occurs. In September 2011, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped 10-15 inches of rain on parts of central PA. The river’s crest was the third highest in history.
Flash floods are another risk. In September 2018, some areas of York County received eight to 14 inches of rain in only four hours. The York Daily Record reported extensive damage from flash flooding. According to NWS records, flooding happens almost every year along Yellow Breeches Creek in the Camp Hill area. Moderate flooding occurred as recently as June 2015.
Sometimes, ice jams restrict the flow of water. In January 2018, ice dams on the Delaware River led to flooding in the Morrisville area. The Pennsylvania DCED Flood Zone Map is an interactive map that helps residents identify the highest flood risks.
Contact Us for Assistance
Let Main Line Risk Management help you identify the best flood insurance for your situation. Call us at 215-878-8100, or request more info below.