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Protect your home against floods

April 1, 2014

House fires might get all of the insurance headlines, but water damage can be just as disastrous to the well-being of a home, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

With warmer weather emerging, the mounds of snow and ice prevalent across the country are starting to melt. This is a cause for concern for many homeowners because those conditions could lead to potential flood possibilities, according to the I.I.I.

A few inches of water can cause thousands of dollars in damage to a home.

The dangers of water damage shouldn't be taken lightly, as just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in home destruction. In tandem, water damage and freezing came in second as the most recurrent home insurance claim from 2008 to 2012, according to I.I.I.

Jeanne Salvatore, the I.I.I.'s chief communications officer, said homeowners must take into account what is covered and what is omitted from their insurance plan if flooding strikes their area.

According to the I.I.I., homes are generally covered from water that falls from the top down, meaning if your roof was damaged and allowed snow or rain to fall into your house. Water damage due to bursting pipes or ice dams on a roof should also be covered under most home insurance policies.

The problem is, most insurance policies don't cover homes for water that rises. So if a stream, river or lake near your home starts to overflow because of melting snow, it's a good idea to bust out the sandbags immediately because most standard insurance plans will not cover against this kind of damage.

This is where a flood insurance plan comes into play and can save you from thousands of dollars of costly repairs.

“Many consumers don't understand what type of water loss is covered, what is not, nor the various types of policies available to them,” Salvatore said. “Fortunately, coverage is available so it is important to contact your insurance professional to make sure that you have both the right type and amount of insurance.”

Should a renter get a flood insurance plan?

Americans renting a home, apartment or condo should also consider that renter's insurance does not usually safeguard against flooding. While renters wouldn't have to worry about paying for their rented property if flood damage were to occur, which would fall to the owner or landlord, they must realize their property is at risk without renter's insurance.

Many renters in high-risk areas along the coasts choose to spend the extra dough for renter's insurance, but the National Flood Insurance Program reported high-risk zones are just one piece of the puzzle.

According to the NFIP, 25 percent of all flood claims are for homes outside of high-risk zones.

Where are people buying flood insurance?

The total number of Americans paying for flood insurance fell to 13 percent in 2013 from 17 percent in 2008, according to the I.I.I.

Homeowners in the South purchase flood insurance at the highest rate, which could be due to previous concerns stemming from Hurricane Katrina, the costliest flooding disaster the country has ever seen, with more than $16 billion in payouts.

Fifteen percent of homes in the South were covered by flood insurance in 2013, down from 21 percent in 2012.

Comparatively, more people in the Midwest and West are paying up for flood insurance. The Midwest had 12 percent of homes covered by flood insurance in 2013, up from 6 percent in 2012. The West moved up to 11 percent last year after coming in around 5 percent in 2012.