By: Brad Buck, UF/IFAS News
With tropical storm season in full swing, it’s a great time to think about flood insurance. A new feature on the Florida Sea Grant website puts you a mouse click way from information to help you understand flood insurance, why it’s important, whether you’re required to have it and how to get it.
The link, www.flseagrant.org/flood-insurance, gives you tips about this type of protection that all property owners need, said Florida Sea Grant Coastal Planning Specialist Thomas Ruppert.
Whether you live along the coast, in a flood-prone area or 200 to 300 feet above sea level, your property may flood.
“Flooding has to do with drainage,” said Ruppert. Just because you live farther from the coast or at higher elevation, does not mean you won’t flood. Flooding can occur almost anywhere under the right condition and land does not have to be in a low-lying area to flood, said Ruppert.
One reason to buy flood insurance is that your homeowner’s insurance policy likely doesn’t cover flood damage, he said. Another good reason: If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area and don’t have a policy, you will qualify for less post-disaster federal aid if a federal disaster is declared after a flood. Furthermore, almost all mortgages on homes in Special Flood Hazard Areas require flood insurance as a condition of getting a mortgage.
You can buy insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program created in 1968 after the private market stopped selling flood insurance. NFIP coverage is sold through existing insurance agents, so check with your local insurance agent, or you can find an agent through the NFIP’s website at www.floodsmart.gov.
Historically, many policies under the NFIP have not paid premiums, based on a calculation of the actual risk to their properties of flooding. These subsidized premiums kept the costs of flood insurance down. But since
2004, the NFIP has accumulated debt of about $24 billion. Rate increases to pay off that debt will be paid through higher premiums and fees for all policy holders and especially through larger rate increases on the 20 percent of properties that have been enjoying subsidized rates.
Generally, flood policies cover up to $250,000 in structural damage for residential homes and $500,000 for businesses. Residential policies can range in cost from about $400 to about $40,000 a year, Ruppert said. The amount you pay depends on whether you’re in a Special Flood Hazard Area, the elevation of the structure and the type of construction.
Calculating flood insurance premium is quite complex but often boils down to two major factors: one, the elevation of your structure relative to the base flood elevation of the flood zone, and two, the date the structure was built.
Flood maps delineate the so-called “100-year floodplain,” where flood insurance is required to get a federally backed mortgage. This does not mean the area floods every 100 years.
“History tells us that storms do not follow a schedule, so in fact, a 100-year flood plain could flood several times in a single year or it might not flood for more than 100 years,” Ruppert said. In addition, properties in the 100-year floodplain have a 25 percent likelihood of suffering flood damage during the period of a 30-year mortgage.
Furthermore, says Ruppert, property owners should not wait until a storm is bearing down on them to purchase flood insurance since there is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance coverage to take effect.
Caption: A flooded dirt road is seen in the area of the Santa Fe River in this file photo. A new link on the Florida Sea Grant website gives information to help you understand flood insurance, why it’s important, whether you’re required to have it and how to get it. The site is atwww.flseagrant.org/flood-insurance.