A flood is no time to gamble

Feb. 21, 2019

A home and farm buildings surrounded by floodwaters

You worked hard to buy your home. It probably took a long time to scrape together enough money for a down payment. Maybe you’ve spent lots of time and effort making improvements to the property. You want to make sure none of that hard work goes to waste. So why would you not have flood insurance?

If your answer is “Because I don’t live in a high-risk flood area,” consider that 25 percent of flood insurance claims are in areas that aren’t considered high-risk. Perhaps your answer is “Because I have homeowner’s insurance! Doesn’t that cover flooding?” The answer is most likely “no” (but ask your insurance agent just in case). But the most devastating answer to the question is, “Because if there’s a devastating or damaging flood, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will cover it.”

It’s not a given that FEMA will cover any damage caused by a flood. That takes a federal disaster declaration including individual assistance. And even if you qualify for their Individual Assistance Program, it won’t restore your home and property to its pre-flood condition. The goal of individual assistance is to make survivors homes safe and sanitary, not to reprint and frame your family portraits or finish that addition you started before the flood. Even though individual assistance can provide up to $33,000 for home repairs, the average applicant only gets about $3,800 when a disaster is declared. Compare that to the maximum residential coverage you can get from flood insurance – $250,000 for the building and $100,000 for its contents – and you’ll see why you won’t want to play the odds when it comes to flooding.

If you’re thinking you have to live in a flood plain to qualify for flood insurance, think again. It’s actually available to 95 percent of Minnesotans, because so many of our communities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). But despite its widespread availability, only about 1 percent of Minnesota homeowners have flood insurance. In other words, our state has more lakes than flood insurance policies.

Maybe you’re thinking that it seems silly to buy flood insurance every year. “If they predict a big storm, I’ll buy flood insurance then.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. There’s a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy becomes active. You can’t just run out and get one when the meteorologists start talking about rising rivers and streams or a heavy rain.

Don’t gamble. Take action as soon as possible: Call your insurance agent and get a good flood insurance policy. So when all of this record-breaking snow melts and the rains come, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home and your possessions are protected.