For Houston area homeowners, the start of hurricane season Friday may also be a day of reckoning about flood insurance.
In the eight counties hit hardest by Harvey last year, only 17 percent of homeowners had flood insurance, according to FEMA statistics.
Regular home insurance covers wind damage, but not flooding.
Homeowners have to buy separate flood insurance policies from the National Flood Insurance Program. It's government-run, but you buy the policy through an insurance agent.
In Texas, the average policy plan is about $500 a year -- and up to $2,000 for homes inside a floodplain.
Flood insurance covers up to $250,000 to rebuild your home and $100,000 to replace your belongings, like TVs and furniture, depending n your policy.
FEMA offers the following tips:
--Know what’s covered – and what’s not covered. Contents are not covered by a building/structure flood policy. You'll need another policy for contents within the building.
--Be sure that you’re clear about your deductible.
--There’s typically a 30-day waiting period when you buy a flood insurance policy and when it goes into effect, but there are some exceptions.
--There is a federally mandated surcharge on flood insurance policies.
Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, affecting every region and state – and it’s not limited, of course, to hurricane season.
There have been Houston area homeowners who have literally had their houses flood for three straight years – the Memorial Day deluge of 2015, the April “Tax Day” floods of 2016 and Harvey last year.
Contact the National Flood Insurance Program’s Help Center at 1-800-427-4661 to request an agent referral.
Floods can happen anywhere. More than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside a high-risk flood zone, according to FEMA.
Flood insurance can pay regardless of whether or not there is a presidential disaster declaration.
FEMA warns that post-disaster federal aid can’t be expected to cover uninsured flood losses. Most federal disaster assistance comes in the form of low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration and you have to pay them back. FEMA offers disaster grants that don't need to be paid back, but notes: “This amount is often much less than what is needed to recover. A claim against your flood insurance policy could and often does, provide more funds for recovery than those you could qualify for from FEMA or the SBA--and you don't have to pay it back.”
Congress has mandated federally regulated or insured lenders to require flood insurance on mortgaged properties that are located in areas at high risk of flooding. But even if your property is not in a high risk flood area, your mortgage lender may still require you to have flood insurance.
If you live in a high-risk flood zone, and you've received federal disaster assistance in the form of grants from FEMA or low-interest disaster loans from the SBA following a presidential disaster declaration, you must maintain flood insurance in order to be considered for any future federal disaster aid.
To renew your policy, call your flood insurance agent. If you don’t have your insurance agent’s contact information, call the National Flood Insurance Program’s Help Center at 1-800-427-4661.