5 Things Homeowners Need to Know to Prepare for 2020’s Flood Season
Flood season is upon us. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this flood season promises to be a wet one, with 23 states likely to face moderate to major flooding.
Although experts do not anticipate this year’s flooding to be as bad as 2019’s, they predict that 128 million Americans are still at risk of flooding and 1.2 million Americans are at risk for major flooding. These are your customers, and this is what they need to know about flood season 2020.
1. Homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood insurance
No, this is not new in 2020. But the reality is that many homeowners still don’t realize that a standard homeowner’s policy does not cover damage caused by flooding. The confusion may stem from the fact that these policies often cover certain types of water damage, such as that caused by burst pipes.
If you think many or most of your customers could benefit from some basic information about flood insurance, point them to our flood basics video series to help them understand why they’re at risk and how flood insurance can help.
2. More homeowners are at risk than they think
Many homeowners don’t think about their flood risk unless they live in a high-risk area, such as one prone to hurricanes. But flood risk exists everywhere – not just on the coasts, and 20 to 25 percent of claims paid by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are outside of “high-risk” areas. This year, one in three homeowners in the lower 48 are expected to be affected by flooding.
The Midwest is already off to a rough start. May brought flash flooding to businesses and residences around a surging Chicago River after the city saw two of the five wettest days on record. In Michigan, devastating dam failures brought on by historic rains forced thousands to evacuate.
3. Not every part of a building is insured the same way
Homes come in all shapes and sizes, and certain features may be ineligible for coverage or incur limits on coverage. For example, homes with basements can be tricky. The NFIP defines a basement as a “building with a floor that is below the natural ground level on all sides.”
Depending on the type of coverage a homeowner has, the structure or contents of a basement may not be covered. This includes below-grade apartments that may be considered basements and so have different coverage eligibility than units in the rest of the building.
4. FEMA has extended its flood insurance premium payment grace period
For homeowners who are covered by a flood insurance policy, FEMA has extended its payment grace period from 30 to 120 days. COVID-19 has disrupted many people’s finances, and this change makes it a bit easier for policyholders to maintain their coverage during a time of increased flood risk.
It’s important to note, however, that homeowners must become current on their premium payments to be eligible to have a claim paid.
If a homeowner does need to make a claim after a flood event during the pandemic, FEMA has issued guidance for remote claims adjusting so social distancing measures can still be observed.
5. 2020’s hurricane season will likely be worse than average
Colorado State University hurricane forecasters predict that 2020’s hurricane season, which begins June 1, will be worse than average. They are predicting there will be 16 tropical storms, that eight of them will become hurricanes, and that four of those will become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5).
For some perspective, an average season produces 12 tropical storms, half of which develop into hurricanes. Last year, there were 18 tropical storms. Six became hurricanes, three of them major.
Hurricanes cause loss, plain and simple. Dorian, a Category 5 that weakened to a Category 3 as it neared Florida in September 2019, caused an estimated $500 million to $1.6 billion in insured losses in the United States and an additional $2 billion in the Caribbean.
Homeowners Need Insurance to Prepare for the 2020 Flood Season
Only 15 percent of homeowners have a flood insurance policy! It’s true that there is typically a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance goes into effect after purchase, but flood and hurricane season is just getting started, so there’s plenty of time for homeowners to mitigate the risks to their property.
Additionally, FEMA allows some exceptions to that waiting period, such as for homeowners who purchase flood insurance as part of increasing, extending, or renewing their mortgage loans and those who increase their coverage when their current flood insurance is up for renewal.