Although the Atlantic Hurricane season ends November 30, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance reminds Virginians that it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause flooding. Heavy rains, saturated soil, melting snow and ice, broken dams and a lack of vegetation due to wildfires or other causes are just a few factors that can contribute to flooding.
A recent survey commissioned by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) found that about half of Americans don’t know that homeowners insurance does not cover damage or loss caused by a flood event. The survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 2,000 U.S. adults age 18 and older, found that 31 percent of Americans incorrectly think damage or loss caused by a flood event is covered by homeowners insurance and 21 percent are not sure if the damage or loss is covered.
The Bureau of Insurance cautions Virginians that floods can happen anywhere and anytime. “It only takes a few inches of water to cause major damage to your home and its contents,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. He encourages Virginians to assess their flood risk and protect themselves financially before the waters start to rise. “Flood insurance is one of the best ways you can help yourself recover financially from a flood, but you have to plan ahead,” he said.
If you live in a floodplain near a river, or if you live near the coast, it is important to consider purchasing separate flood insurance for your home. Keep in mind that even low-risk communities can experience flooding.
Although homeowners insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not provide coverage for damage to your home and belongings due to floods, the federal government does sell insurance for direct flood and flood-related damage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This federally-backed flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters and business owners and offers separate coverage for structures and contents. There is generally a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy takes effect.
For more information about flood insurance, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-800- 427-4661 or visit www.floodsmart.gov. Since some private insurers also offer their own flood policies, you can check with your insurance agent about the availability of a private flood insurance policy. In either case, ask whether your flood policy provides coverage for your personal property.
Unlike homeowners insurance, auto insurance generally covers damage caused by flooding. However, the policyholder must have other-than-collision (also known as comprehensive) coverage on their vehicle. This coverage pays for damage to a vehicle from such things as fire, water, hail, vandalism, glass breakage, wind and falling objects.
Among the many publications offered by the SCC’s Bureau of Insurance are consumer guides regarding homeowners and auto insurance and disaster-related property insurance claims. For copies of the guides or answers to your insurance questions, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Consumer Services Section by calling 804-371-9185 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-877-310- 6560. Copies of the consumer insurance guides are also available on the Bureau’s website at https://www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/index.aspx.