Should you be worried about flood damage?

Flood Insurance in NYC

Living in New York, most of us didn’t think about flood insurance. Then Superstorm Sandy destroyed thousands of homes and caused estimated economic losses of $19 billion in New York City alone. More recently, Hurricane Jose caused flooding from New Jersey to Long Island. Since much of the city was built before modern flood-proofing designs were introduced, NY is particularly vulnerable to flooding. With extreme weather on the rise, flood insurance is a topic more New Yorkers are asking about.

What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance can cover costly buildings and contents losses caused by flooding, which is excluded from most homeowner policies. But not all homes can get flood coverage, for instance basement apartments are almost always excluded.

Just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home.

The federal government created the NFIP in 1968 to provide flood insurance to homeowners, renters and businesses who are in areas with the greatest risk if their community participates in the NFIP program to reduce flood risk. Note, NFIP only covers damage caused by the general condition of flooding typically caused by storm surges, wave washes, tidal waves, or the overflow of any body of water over normally dry land areas.

Many people might shrug it off, thinking flooding is what federal disaster assistance is for. Not so fast. Not only does your area have to first be declared a federal disaster (not a given), flood insurance and many kinds of federal disaster assistance are not available in communities which do not participate in the NFIP. And as we learned from the extensive damage cause in Rockaway Beach, NY, after Sandy, Federal Assistance may not be available in the future to those homeowners not carrying flood insurance.

In New York, 1,466 communities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Who needs flood insurance?

If you live in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defined floodplain and have a federally-backed mortgage, flood insurance is required. But even if you don’t live in a floodplain or don’t have a mortgage, you can still purchase flood insurance – it’s a smart investment for anyone who lives near the water.

Built over centuries, New York City has a unique mosaic of vulnerable building and infrastructure: stretches of coastal marshland in Jamaica Bay, residential neighborhoods consisting of small wood-frame bungalows along oceanfront beaches, Manhattan’s dense commercial districts, and industrial and post-industrial areas along the New York Harbor.

The first step is to find your address on FEMA’s flood maps, which you can find here. If your property sits in a 100-year floodplain, your mortgager will require flood insurance. If you know your property has flooded before, flood insurance should be high on your to-do list. And if you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area and have previously received disaster assistance in the form of a federal grant or loan, you must purchase and maintain flood insurance for as long as you live there.

New York City’s 520 miles of shoreline border the ocean, rivers, inlets and bays, and a harbor that is home to the largest port on the East Coast, leaving us vulnerable to various types of flooding.

Why do I need flood insurance?

Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and no home is completely safe from potential flooding. Did you know floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S.? And, flooding is one of the most commonly excluded hazards in homeowner’s insurance policies. Flood insurance can make the difference between recovering and moving back in or walking away financially devastated. Without insurance, you have to pay out of pocket or take out loans to repair and replace damaged structure as well as those big ticket appliances such as a furnace. With insurance, you can recover faster with financial peace of mind.

If you live in an area with low or moderate flood risk, you are 5 times more likely to experience flood than a fire in your home over the next 30 years.

Flood Insurance Quick Facts

The first fact: homeowners does not cover flood damage – we can’t stress that enough. Here are a few more facts to consider.

  • More than 20% of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk zones, FEMA says.
  • Flood insurance can pay even if your area isn’t designated a disaster zone by the President.
  • A FEMA disaster grant is about $5000 per household. By comparison, the average flood insurance claim is nearly $30,000. Fema grants are likely not going to be available for areas affected by previously flooding that did not obtain Flood Insurance.
  • For properties in moderate- to low-risk areas, Preferred Risk Policies provide coverage at a lower cost as long as the property meets eligibility requirements based on the building’s entire flood loss history.
  • Many private insurance companies offer Excess Flood Protection, which provides limits over and above those of the NFIP.
  • What flood insurance covers:

    Flood insurance has two parts: building and contents, neither covers the land you sit on. It’s also important to note flood insurance does not cover basement improvements such as finished walls, floors, ceilings. Ask your HCP agent for complete details, but typically, building coverage includes:

    • The insured building and its foundation
    • The electrical and plumbing system
    • Central air conditioning equipment, furnaces, and water heaters
    • Refrigerators, cooking stoves, and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
    • Permanently installed carpeting over unfinished flooring
  • Typically, contents coverage includes:

    • Clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment
    • Curtains
    • Portable and window air conditioners
    • Portable microwaves and dishwashers
    • Carpeting that is not already included in property coverage
    • Clothing washers and dryers

An estimated 71,500 buildings in New York City are in the 1 percent annual chance floodplain, based on FEMA’s Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

What are the most common flood risks?

Flooding doesn’t always arrive with the great fanfare of a hurricane. Flooding damage can be caused by:

  • spring rain that causes a river to overflow its banks
  • broken water mains
  • backed-up storm drains that bring inches of water in to your home
  • new development that changes how water flows both above and below ground
  • snowmelt
  • faulty basement sump pumps

Helpful hint: To ease the claims process, conduct a household inventory and keep a record of all major household items and valuables. For help conducting a home inventory, visit knowyourstuff.org.

In 2050, the 1 percent annual chance floodplain is projected to be almost 32 square miles; equivalent to 2300 Yankee Stadiums.

How much flood insurance coverage is available?

NFIP Flood coverage limits for a standard flood policy are:

1-4 family structure$250,000

Coverage Type Flood coverage limit
1-4 family home contents $100,000
Other residential structures $500,000
Other residential contents $100,000
Renter contents $100,000

Why should I choose HCP?

It comes down to the extra service and personal attention we provide. NFIP flood insurance rates do not differ from company to company or agent to agent: all policy premiums include certain fees and Congressionally-mandated surcharges. And your community may be enrolled in NFIP’s program to reduce flooding, so you may be eligible for a discount. Sound strange? No problem, we’ll explain every detail until you’re comfortable.

What’s more, some insurers will offer you exactly what you ask for when you call for a quote. We think that’s only half our job. HCP has worked with New Yorkers for more than 100 years, and we understand the risks you face. So not only will we answer your questions about flood, we’ll look at the big picture and ask detailed questions to discover where else you may be facing risk and offer comprehensive guidance. We want to protect you with the right level of coverage.

We’ll pair you with an agent who knows your neighborhood and understands what keeps you up at night. Your agent is your advocate, providing personal service before, during and after you choose your policy. Many of our employees have been with us 15, even 25 years, and make their career here so you get to work with the same person year in, year out. No need to initiate someone new.

In high-risk areas, there is at least a one-in-four chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage.

What if I have a claim?

We know how important it is to have someone who gets it when you’re up to your ankles in a rising flood. Your Honig Conte Porrino agent is your advocate, ready to help you navigate the claim process: one agent, one call. We’ll contact the insurance company and arrange for an adjuster to visit. We want you to be delighted every time you connect with us. In addition, if you’re curious about the process, FEMA has some interesting reading here.

When building, elevating your home just one foot above the base flood elevation often results in a 30% reduction in annual premiums. If you can’t elevate your building, there are steps you can take to reduce flood damage.

What other coverages might I need?

  • Personal Umbrella – gives you extra liability coverage to cover damages that exceed your primary policy limits, such as a pricey car accident. It can also help cover defense costs, attorney fees and other charges associated with lawsuits.
  • Life – protects your family and others who depend on you for financial support and can help cover funeral expenses. Life insurance can also play a role in building wealth and investments
  • Disability Income – provides for benefits in the event that you’re unable to work because of a covered disability.
  • Pet Insurance – protection can extend beyond your human family, get peace of mind and help with medical expenses for your furry family.