By Sonya Sellmeyer, Consumer Advocacy Officer for the Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa’s snowfall each year brings about the possibility of spring flooding.  Damage caused by flooding is often a standard exclusion in home, renters, and property insurance policies.  In most flood-prone areas, flood insurance coverage has traditionally been available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  Those that do not live in a NFIP community now have flood insurance options from private insurance carriers.

According to FEMA, one inch of water can do $25,000 worth of damage, and the average flood claim in 2018 was more than $40,000.  If you live in or around a high-risk flood area, you may be required to have flood insurance.  The FEMA Flood Map Service Center is the official public source for flood hazard information in support of the NFIP, and you can use this service to find your property on the official flood hazard map. The NFIP offers two types of coverage, building, and contents, to protect your home and belongings. NFIP also offers flood insurance for renters, businesses, and preferred risk policies specifically designed for residential properties located in moderate-to-low risk flood zones.  Typically, there is a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance takes effect.  Call a licensed insurance agent soon to see about coverage.  

Why might you want private flood insurance? Iowa is a state with previous historical flooding experience. So, if you don’t live in an area that requires flood coverage or participates in the NFIP program, private flood protection should be considered.  Private flood insurance is also sold by licensed insurance agents in Iowa and may also have a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect.  Annually evaluate your policy to ensure you have the proper coverage limits to rebuild if necessary.

Water and sewer backup coverage are different from flood insurance.  While some homeowners policies include these provisions, neither are automatically included as part of a regular homeowners policy and will need special endorsements to provide coverage. 

As with any insurance policy, read the policy to ensure you understand what is covered.  Coverage through FEMA’s NFIP may cover direct physical losses to your structure and belongings. Private flood insurance may also provide loss-of-use coverage, which is not reimbursed by a federal government policy. Pay specific attention to what is not covered under the policy, and discuss the coverage limits with your agent to ensure you have enough protection. 

Additional information about flooding and flood risks can be found on the NFIP website.  For current flood alerts and stream levels in Iowa visit the Iowa Flood Information System.  

Iowans who believe they have flood coverage under their property insurance and are not receiving compensation per their insurance policy may file a complaint with the Iowa Insurance Division.  Before disaster strikes review the Post-Disaster Claims Guide to help you complete a home inventory and assist with the filing of any future insurance claims. 

Remember flood damage can happen to anyone in Iowa and a NFIP or private flood insurance policy may protect you from water damage losses.  Act quickly to obtain coverage before flood season begins.