Floods often catch homeowners with their insurance down

  • By Eileen Alt Powell / Associated Press
  • Saturday, June 19, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

NEW YORK – Spring rains may be good for lawns and gardens, but they’re not necessarily beneficial to all homeowners.

Storms and snowmelt can add up to raging rivers, overflowing lakes and tidal surges that cause extensive damage to homes. Some families learn too late that flood damage isn’t covered by traditional homeowner policies.

There is a way families can protect their homes and furnishings. Since 1968, the federal government has sponsored the National Flood Insurance Program to make insurance coverage available, not only in high-risk zones but in areas that are only occasionally threatened.

Detailed information about flood insurance can be found at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site, www.fema.gov/nfip.

Consumers can obtain a free copy of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Guide by writing the Federal Citizen Information Center, Dept. 55, Pueblo, CO 81009, or by calling the information center at 888-878-3256.

The program is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with policies available to homeowners in more than 20,000 communities that have adopted flood-plain management ordinances. The government sets the rates on the policies, which are available through private insurance companies.

The two big disasters not covered in standard homeowner policies are floods and earthquakes, said Jeanne Salvatore, vice president for consumers affairs at the Insurance Information Institute, an educational center sponsored by property and casualty insurers.

“When it comes to water damage, one way to think about it is that homeowners insurance covers water from the top down, while flood insurance covers it from the bottom up,” she said.

That is, if wind damages a roof and water pours in and ruins the living room furniture and rug, a homeowners policy generally will cover the repair or replacement costs. But if a nearby creek overflows and fills the house with a foot of mud and water, the family is out of luck unless it carries flood insurance.

According to FEMA, a homeowner is eligible for up to $250,000 coverage for the house and $100,000 for its contents. Renters can get coverage of up to $100,000 for furnishings. Some 4.6 million policies were in force last year, and more than $605 million in claims were paid, the agency said.

Coverage isn’t cheap, and varies by how flood-prone an area is. The average premium is $520 a year for $100,000 worth of property coverage for a home without a basement and $615 a year for a home with a basement, FEMA estimates.

Still, insurance agent George Yates of East Hampton, N.Y., said eligible families should consider getting coverage. “You especially need it if you’re in a high-hazard flood zone – low-lying areas, coastal areas, areas near rivers and streams,” Yates said. “But even in zones where there’s low probability, there can be flooding. In fact, about 20 percent of claims are from areas where you wouldn’t expect to have a flood.”

A policy for a home in an area seldom threatened by flooding can run as low as $150 a year, he said.

Yates, a member of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of New York, said families buying a home in a flood-prone area often find they have to get flood insurance before a financial institution will approve a mortgage.

Even those who have it should consult with their insurance agents periodically to ensure they are carrying enough to cover the appreciated value of their home and its contents, he said.

Those buying for the first time need to be aware that there’s a 30-day waiting period before coverage kicks in, and policies must be kept in force for at least a year.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

Photo provided by 
Economic Alliance
Economic Alliance presented one of the Washington Rising Stem Awards to Katie Larios, a senior at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Mountlake Terrace High School senior wins state STEM award

Katie Larios was honored at an Economic Alliance gathering: “A champion for other young women of color in STEM.”

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

A Keyport ship docked at Lake Union in Seattle in June 2018. The ship spends most of the year in Alaska harvesting Golden King crab in the Bering Sea. During the summer it ties up for maintenance and repairs at Lake Union. (Keyport LLC)
In crabbers’ turbulent moment, Edmonds seafood processor ‘saved our season’

When a processing plant in Alaska closed, Edmonds-based business Keyport stepped up to solve a “no-win situation.”

Angela Harris, Executive Director of the Port of Edmonds, stands at the port’s marina on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Leadership, love for the Port of Edmonds got exec the job

Shoring up an aging seawall is the first order of business for Angela Harris, the first woman to lead the Edmonds port.

The Cascade Warbirds fly over Naval Station Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald file)
Bothell High School senior awarded $2,500 to keep on flying

Cascade Warbirds scholarship helps students 16-21 continue flight training and earn a private pilot’s certificate.

Rachel Gardner, the owner of Musicology Co., a new music boutique record store on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. Musicology Co. will open in February, selling used and new vinyl, CDs and other music-related merchandise. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Edmonds record shop intends to be a ‘destination for every musician’

Rachel Gardner opened Musicology Co. this month, filling a record store gap in Edmonds.

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Burst pipe permanently closes downtown Everett toy store

After a pipe flooded the store, MyMyToystore in downtown Everett closed. Owner Tom Harrison is already on to his next venture.

Melrose and Vine Collective owner Kara Langus in her vintage collection room at her store on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New and vintage women’s boutique aims to dazzle in downtown Everett

Add some sparkle to your wardrobe: Melrose and Vine Collective opened inside a former bank building on Pacific Avenue.

Garry Clark, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
CEO steps down at Economic Alliance Snohomish County

Garry Clark, who has led the nonprofit chamber of commerce for three years, is leaving to “seek new opportunities.”

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Ex-Seagen CEO to return to Bothell to lead newly relocated biotech firm

Clay Siegall, who resigned from Seagen over allegations of domestic abuse, is now CEO of cancer therapy developer Immunome.

Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington. Photographed in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
‘Shocked and heartbroken’: Woodinville garden store Molbak’s to close

After 67 years, Molbak’s Home + Garden, a mainstay just across the county line, will cease operations early next year.

Good Cheer’s two thrift stores are great places to find Christmas decorations and other knick-knacks. (File photo by David Welton)
A guide to gift buying on Whidbey Island

Consider these unique gift idea suggestions from the South Whidbey Record and the Whidbey News-Times

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.