Flood Insurance

June 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Americans lost six billion dollars in property damage from flooding last year alone. Homeowners in high-risk areas are required to get flood insurance. Flooding can leave devastating damage in its wake. But Kay Bowker's family in Lumberton, New Jersey, thought it was something that would never happen to them.

"It never even crossed our minds to get flood insurance. It was not needed. We were not at all in what we felt was a high-risk area," says Bowker.

But ground water seeped through their basement floor last year. It caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages, which her homeowner's insurance didn't cover.

Tobie Stanger, Consumer Reports, says "It doesn't take a hurricane to cause major flood damage to your home. Even if you live in a low-to-moderate risk area, you could be subject to flooding."

But typical homeowners' insurance policies like the one Kay had don't cover flooding. You need separate flood insurance. "With most insurance, experts say if you have any doubt, don't buy it. With flood insurance, we say you probably should buy it," says Stanger.

To help determine whether you need coverage, go to floodsmart.gov for a preliminary assessment of your property's flood risk. "If you live in a low-to-moderate risk area, the cost of national flood insurance can be relatively low. It can be under 200-dollars a year," says Stanger.

Flood insurance usually kicks in 30 days from the date of purchase, so don't wait until bad weather is looming to purchase it.

Flood insurance, which you can get from most insurance agents, will pay up to $250,000 to rebuild your home and up to $100,000 to replace the contents.

Kay says it's coverage that's well worth having. "You never know what can happen. And it's better to be prepared and ready than not, because it'll take you by surprise."

Be aware, unlike homeowners insurance, you can't buy a flood policy that will pay more than the policy limit if rebuilding costs run higher than anticipated.


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