Water damage is broadly categorized as loss or harm to personal property and describes many possible losses that are a result of water intruding from a sudden and accidental discharge or overflow. Flooding occurs when an excess amount of rain water flows overland for a prolonged period. According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), all 50 states and the District have experienced floods or flash floods in the past five years. Even if you do not live in a flood prone area, minimal amounts of flooding can result in a financial disaster. It is important to note that roughly a third of all assistance for flooding goes to moderate- to low-risk areas. The NFIP states that one foot of water could cause $27,150 of damage to a 1,000-square-foot home.
During periods of heavy rainfall, excess water from sewers or drains can overflow into your home or cause water to back up in basement areas. However, this is not considered a flood and is not covered by flood insurance. You must purchase additional coverage through your homeowner’s insurance policy that can help you repair water damage from overflowing drains and sewers, broken sump pumps and, essentially, any damage that results from water that moves from the ground up.
Neither a standard homeowner’s insurance policy or a water backup and sump overflow coverage endorsement provide protection against flood loss. Flood insurance is available for homeowners, renters and businesses through the NFIP and can be purchased through an insurance agent or by contacting www.floodsmart.gov. Flood insurance also will be available directly from some insurers.
Most condominium associations located in special flood hazard areas can purchase flood insurance that covers the structure of the buildings and common areas. The associations may purchase coverage on individual units in the names of the unit owners and/or the names of the associations. It is important to check the associations’ policies, issued by NFIP, to determine if coverage extends to the inside of residential units. For additional protection, you may want to consider a separate policy.
After a flood event, many people look to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance. While FEMA provides individual assistance, it is not intended to cover your losses or rebuild your home. Typically, the average individual assistance from FEMA ranges from $4,000 to $7,500. However, a flood insurance policy can provide up to $250,000 for your home's structure and $100,000 for your personal property. Private flood insurers can provide higher limits.
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from a flood. They include:
- Raising the elevation on your home
- Installing flood vents
- Installing a water alarm that lets you know if water is accumulating in your basement
- Developing an emergency plan
- Cleaning debris from gutters and spouts
- Using the United States Geological Survey Water Alert System https://maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/wateralert/ to receive text messages when a stream in your area is rising to flood levels
- Checking with your insurance agent or company to review your coverage and available options (regardless of whether you rent or own).
The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking encourages all District residents to prepare for flooding by knowing your flood risk, preparing your homes and businesses and ensuring that you have sufficient insurance coverage.