This week in New England Mother Nature brought flash flooding, thunderstorms and torrential downpours. The severe weather even forced a partial evacuation of Norwood Hospital that left several motorists stranded. Summer storms, poor drainage systems, snow melt, neighborhood construction, and broken water mains can all cause flooding. Massachusetts residents maybe accustomed to wild weather but are your homes protected from its effects? Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not include coverage for flooding. Only flood insurance can protect your home, apartment, condo, or business from the devastating effects of a flood.
Why Purchase Flood Insurance in Massachusetts?
Floods Can Happen Anywhere
“Flooding is the most common, costly and deadly severe weather related natural disaster in the country,” and climate change is causing flood risk to increase. (1 & 5) For those living in high risk flood areas, or near lakes or rivers, the need for flood insurance is obvious. Many coastal homeowners such as residents of Scituate, Cohasset and Marshfield, and those living in other high risk areas, have experienced flooding and are required to carry flood insurance.
However, you don’t need to live near the coast to experience a flood. Even if your home or business is located in an area deemed to have “low-to-moderate” flood risk, floods can happen anywhere at any time. According to Floodsmart.gov “over 40 percent of all NFIP flood insurance claims filed between 2014 and 2018, resulted from policyholders outside of high-risk flood areas.”
Floods are Costly
Floods are the most expensive natural disaster, costing homeowners, the government, and insurers, billions annually. For most people, their home or business is their most significant asset. Without flood insurance you risk having to pay out of pocket if you experience a flood loss. With FEMA reporting that, “just one inch of flood water can cause more than $25,000 in damage to your home,” it’s easy to see how not having flood insurance could result in financial hardship. (2) For high-value homeowners and affluent individuals the cost of flooding may reach into the hundreds of thousands.
How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?
The cost of flood insurance varies depending upon:
- how close you are to the water. This is your flood risk or flood zone. (whether your property is at high, medium or low-risk for flood),
- the design and age of your property,
- the type of coverage (ex. Building and contents coverage),
- the deductible and how much coverage you need,
- the location of your structure’s contents (are your utilities elevated?), and
- whether you are considering private flood insurance or coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
A study in June of 2020 by ValuePenguin found that the average annual cost of flood insurance in Massachusetts is $1275. (3) Considering the average cost of a flood claim is over $25,000, a $1,200 premium is pretty affordable. It is important to remember that differences in location and coverage selections, may result in lower (or higher) than the average premium. And properties located in low-to-moderate risk areas may be eligible for lower-cost Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs). The PRP provides the same building and contents coverage at a more affordable price.
How Can I Determine My Flood Risk?
For your convenience, our website provides a convenient and free flood mapping tool. To map your property’s flood risk, enter your address into the flood map tool or submit for a complimentary flood insurance quote on McSweeney & Ricci’s website. Obtaining a quote for flood insurance is free and takes only minutes. With offices in the coastal towns of Cohasset and Marshfield, our Account Managers are flood insurance experts and have been helping coastal (and non-coastal) residents with flood insurance in Massachusetts since 1964.
What Types of Water Damage does Flood Insurance Cover?
Flood insurance does not protect your home from all types of water damage. The NFIP describes covered flooding as a temporary condition, where normally dry land is partially or completely inundated with water. It’s important to note that in order to be covered, flooding can’t just happen in your yard alone, it has to occur on “at least two properties in the area or two or more acres must be affected.”
Flood Insurance Typically Covers Water Damage Caused By:
- The overflow of lakes, rivers and dams
- The unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, such as heavy rainfall, or melting snow
- Mudslides, i.e., mudflows, caused by flooding, that could be described as a river of liquid and flowing mud and
- The collapse or destabilization of land along the shore of a lake or other body of water, resulting from erosion or the effect of waves, or water currents exceeding normal, cyclical levels.
What Does Flood Insurance Cover?
In the event of a flood, a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) covers “direct physical losses to your structure and belongings.”(4) NFIP flood insurance policies have two components:
- Building coverage-which protects your property’s structure, the drywall, the insulation, the frame, the foundation, and your carpeting. Building coverage would extend to your electrical and plumbing systems, furnaces and hot water heaters, refrigerator, stove and any built-in appliances like your dishwasher. Built in cabinetry, staircases, detached garages, fuel tanks, well water tanks, and solar energy equipment would all also be protected by the building portion of NFIP flood coverage.
- Contents coverage– protects your furniture, clothing, appliances, and electronic equipment like your entertainment center. Your curtains, washer and dryer, portable and window AC units, microwave and any carpets that aren’t included in building coverage (for example a carpet installed over a wood floor) would also find coverage under contents. Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs are typically covered (up to $2,500).
What is excluded from a Flood Insurance Policy?
For a full list of what is excluded from a flood insurance policy visit the National Flood Insurance Program website. Some of the property a flood insurance policy will not cover are:
- your actual yard, plants, shrubs, walkways or your landscaping
- wells or septic systems
- decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs or swimming pools
- Currency, precious metals, and valuable papers such as stock certifcates
I have a Media Room or Home Office in My Basement, if There’s a Flood, are they Covered?
While a flood policy will provide coverage for structural components of your basement, and certain appliances such as a washer and dryer, a food freezer (not a refrigerator), and portable or window AC unit, it won’t provide coverage for furniture, electronics, or computer equipment that may be found in some finished basements.
How Can I Purchase Flood Insurance in Massachusetts?
If your home, condo, apartment, or business is located in a NFIP participating community (most MA cities and towns are), you can purchase a NFIP flood insurance policy by requesting a complimentary quote through our website or by calling (844) 501-1359.
If your property isn’t a NFIP participating town, you can purchase private flood insurance. Your dedicated McSweeney & Ricci Account Manager will ask you questions to determine your level of risk and will recommend the best option for you.
When Is My Policy Effective?
With an NFIP backed flood insurance policy, there is a typical waiting period of 30 days or more from the date of purchase until the policy goes into effect. So don’t wait until the next storm is forecast to purchase flood insurance.
With the wild weather in Massachusetts and across New England, flood insurance can provide peace of mind that your property is protected from the effects of flooding. Only your local insurance agent can provide you with flood insurance. Contact the flood insurance experts at McSweeney & Ricci to discuss adding a flood insurance policy to your home insurance or business insurance program.
(2) “Buying Flood Insurance” https://www.floodsmart.gov/flood-insurance
(3) Value Penguin “average cost of flood insurance by state”
(5) “The truth about flood risk can worsen American inequality. Bad flood scores can mean less investment in low-income communities.” NU Property Casualty 360 by Leslie Kaufman 06/29/20