What the Federal Flood Insurance Program Covers

What is Covered

The National Flood Insurance Program's (NFIP) building property policy covers the cost to rebuild or the actual value of your home (whichever is less). That includes:

  • Debris removal
  • Detached garages (limited to 10% of your home policy)
  • Electrical and plumbing systems
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment like air conditioning, furnaces, and water heaters
  • Kitchen appliances, including your refrigerator, stove, and built-ins such as your dishwasher
  • Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor
  • Permanently installed wallboard, paneling, bookcases, and cabinets
  • Water heater
  • Window blinds
  • Your home and its foundation

The NFIP policy that covers your personal property will cover stuff like:

  • Carpets not covered by your building policy
  • Clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment
  • Curtains
  • Portable microwaves and dishwashers
  • Washers and dryers
  • Window air conditioning units
  • Your freezer and frozen food
  • Up to $2,500 in valuables, such as art and furs

Note: Personal possessions claims are paid based on actual cash value - not what you paid for them.

What Isn’t Covered

Typically, if it belongs in a bank or safe deposit box, it’s not covered:

  • Bearer bonds
  • Cash
  • Precious metals
  • Stock certificates

Other items not covered include:

  • Boat houses
  • Cars
  • Decks
  • Fences
  • Hot tubs
  • Loss of income
  • Patios
  • Plants
  • Post-flood mold damage (more about insurance and mold)
  • Retaining walls
  • Septic systems
  • Sewer backups
  • Storm shelters
  • Swimming pools
  • Temporary housing and other living expenses
  • Trees
  • Walkways
  • Wells

Coverage is Limited for Basements

If you have a basement, you’ll have more risk because the NFIP limits coverage for basements, crawlspaces, or any living space where the floor is below ground level. Even a walkout basement won’t be covered for:

  • Bookcases
  • Carpeting, tile, and other floor coverings
  • Most personal property such as clothing, electronic equipment, kitchen supplies, and furniture
  • Paneling
  • Some drywall, depending on how far below ground level it is
  • Walls and ceilings not made of drywall
  • Window treatments

There’s a Limit to How Often You Can Collect

If you make four or more flood claims for more than $5,000 each, or two claims that, added together, cost more than your home, NFIP will “offer” you a grant to make your home less vulnerable to floods. If you refuse to take the grant money and make the improvements, your policy payments will probably increase substantially.

If a Flood Severely Damages Your Home

NFIP may give you $30,000 to use to raise, tear down, or move your home. That $30,000 gets added on to any other claim NFIP pays you. But the total still can’t go above $250,000.

More About What Qualifies as a Flood

As mentioned earlier, regular homeowners insurance doesn’t cover floods. So when is damage considered to be caused by a flood? Water has to cover at least 2 acres of land that’s normally dry, or has to have damaged two or more properties (one being your home). Also, the water has to come from:

  • Mudflow (that’s mud carried by a flow of water, creating a river of mud)
  • Overflowing inland or tidal waters
  • Unusual, rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source

Water and seepage that comes from sewer or drain backups, or a sump pump that overflows is not considered a flood.

Helpful Tips

  • You’re also covered when shorefront land collapses or sinks due to waters above “anticipated cyclical levels.”
  • Don’t wait for an impending storm to purchase federal flood insurance. There’s usually a 30-day waiting period. Some private policies offer a 15-day waiting period.
  • Make an inventory of the possessions in your home to make filing a claim easier.