Do I need flood insurance in the District of Columbia?
Flooding is not covered in a standard homeowners, renter’s or business insurance policy and between 20 and 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from low-risk areas. The DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking offers this information to help you get smart about your flood insurance options.
Your flood insurance risk may have also been impacted by recent changes to the US National Flood Insurance Program or “NFIP.” Continue reading below for frequently asked questions about flood insurance and the recent NFIP changes.
Remember, not all water damage is considered “flooding.” Check with your insurance company about other coverage such as sewer/water back-up as part of your homeowners policy.
What Is a Flood?
Flood—an excess of water (or mud) on normally dry land—is the most common natural disaster in the United States. The National Flood Insurance Program “NFIP” defines flooding as a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow.
I recently received a notice on changes to my flood insurance policy. Where do I go for more information? Did the Washington, DC, flood maps change?
FEMA is updating the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) due to the passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 and changes to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. You can visit NFIP’s website here for more information about the changes.
How do I understand the flood risk area of my home or business?
Everyone could sustain a loss from flooding, but not everyone faces the same level of flood risk. You can see the current flood insurance rate map for Washington, DC, at disb.dc.gov/node/448432. Visit the District Department of the Environment’s website, ddoe.dc.gov/floodplainmap to find your flood risk area. Visit NFIP’s website, FloodSmart.gov to put in your address, rate your risk, estimate your premiums and find an agent.
How do I read a flood insurance rate map?
A flood insurance rate map shows community flood zones, Base Flood Elevations (BFEs), and floodplain boundaries to provide an indication of the risk of flooding in Washington, DC. Areas of moderate to low risk are shown in the 500as zones labeled B, C or X on a FIRM. High-risk areas are shown as zones beginning with the letters A or V. Areas of undetermined risk are shown with the letter D.
The city uses the map to manage floodplains and develop sound building ordinances. Mortgage lenders use the map to help determine a property’s flood risk and decide whether flood insurance will be required as a condition for a loan. Insurance agents use the map during the rating process to determine a property’s flood insurance premium.
What if the map shows that my risk has changed?
The chart below shows the effect of map changes on insurance rates. For exact rating information, contact your insurance agent.
|Change in Risk||Rate Impact|
Moderate- to low-risk area (Zone B, C, or X) or Unknown (Zone D)
High-risk area (Zone A or V)
|Flood insurance is mandatory. Flood insurance will be required if you have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. Rating options can offer savings. Buildings newly mapped into a high-risk area may initially be eligible for a lower-cost rate during the first 12 months following a map change. Premiums will then increase up to 18 percent each year as part of the premium rate revisions put in place by the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. Purchasing a policy before the new map goes into effect will maximize your savings. Your insurance agent can provide more details on how to save. A policy can be assigned to new owners, allowing them to keep the lower rate.|
High-risk area to higher-risk area (Zone A to V)
Increase in Base Flood Elevation or BFE
|Grandfathering can offer savings. The NFIP grandfathering option allows policyholders who have built in compliance with the flood map in effect at the time of construction to keep their previous zone or Base Flood Elevation to calculate their insurance premium. This could result in significant savings. A grandfather-rated policy can be assigned to new owners. In most cases, your insurance agent will ask you to provide an Elevation Certificate.|
High-risk area (Zone A or V)
Moderate- to low-risk area (Zone B, C, or X)
|Flood insurance is optional, but recommended. The risk is reduced, not removed. More than 20 percent of NFIP claims come from buildings outside of high-risk areas. Conversion offers savings. An existing policy can be converted to a lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy, with a refund of the premium difference. Although flood insurance is no longer federally required, your mortgage lender might still choose to require it.|
|No change||No change in insurance rates. Still, this is a good time to talk with your insurance agent to learn your specific risk and make sure you have enough flood insurance coverage.|
Are there cost saving programs for reducing insurance premium rates?
If you find you will have to pay a higher premium for flood, below are strategies for reducing the rate.
Mitigate. One way to reduce your rate is to reduce your risk, because premiums are based on risk. For example, install flood vents in the crawl space beneath the lowest level of your building to help reduce the chance that the foundation of your building will be displaced during a flood, and lowers your premium. When remodeling or rebuilding, consider raising heating and cooling systems, water heaters, the electrical panel and other mechanical items so that they are less likely to be damaged or destroyed in a flood may offer some premium savings.
Apply for a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). Flood insurance rate maps are developed to a scale that is useful for community officials, lenders and insurance professionals, but not every rise in terrain can be depicted at this scale. If you think your building is imprecisely mapped as being in the floodplain, FEMA provides a process to allow property owners to request a more precise flood zone designation. For more information on filing a LOMC, visit fema.gov.
Consider a higher deductible. Just as with automobile or homeowners insurance, increasing your deductible—an amount you pay out of your pocket to cover a claim before coverage is applied—will lower your premium. A new $10,000 deductible, available to homeowners as of April 1, 2015, will result in up to a 40 percent discount from the base premium. However, using the maximum deductible might not be appropriate for every financial situation and may not be allowed by lenders to meet mandatory purchase requirements.
How do I obtain flood insurance?
Contact your current insurance agent, company or broker or visit FloodSmart.gov. Also, remember, there is typically a 30-day waiting period on new flood insurance policies before they take effect.
How do I get updates on the NFIP in DC?
Contact your local floodplain administrator to learn when and where changes are occurring in Washington, DC. The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is the floodplain administrator and the NFIP coordinator for the District of Columbia. DDOE coordinates with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, DC Building Official, and other District agencies to implement the program. For more information, visit ddoe.dc.gov/service/floodplain-management.
Where do I go for questions about flood insurance claims?
The flood insurance claims manual is on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website at www.fema.gov.
Be Prepared! Make a home inventory
You never know when disaster may strike. Make a home inventory of your personal property including photos or video of your belongings. You can download the free National Association of Insurance Commissioners home inventory app for iPhone® or Android smart phones and other resources at www.insureuonline.org.