Flood Insurance in Massachusetts

By: Mary Steeb, CISR, CPIW

Mary loves to explain insurance in terms that her customers can understand so that they can make informed decisions about their coverage.

wet basement covered by MA flood insuranceHundreds of Massachusetts homeowners and business owners experience floods each year. Many live along the shore, but experts say that proximity to the ocean shouldn’t necessarily determine who buys flood insurance.  Why?

Because floods can happen anywhere.

According to FEMA, nearly 25% of flood-insurance claims originate from low-to-moderate risk areas. So, whether you live near a water body or not, here’s what you need to know about flood insurance in Massachusetts:

Does Massachusetts home insurance cover flood damage?

No. MA home insurance and renter’s insurance policies exclude damage caused by flooding. If you want to protect your home against heavy rain and rapid snow thaw, you need to purchase a separate policy.

Who needs flood insurance in Massachusetts?

According to FEMA, everyone lives in an area with some flood risk.

In fact, even if your property is located in a “low-to-moderate flood risk” area, you are five times more likely to experience a flood than a fire, during the course of your thirty-year mortgage.

So, flood insurance makes sense for many homeowners, renters, and business property owners—but especially those located near the coast; downstream from brooks, rivers, or lakes; or for those whose property abuts construction zones, where development can affect how water flows below ground.

If you’ve ever had concerns about flooding, it’s a good idea to contact your agent.

Won’t the previous homeowners tell me if I need flood insurance?

Not necessarily. According to the National Resources Defense Council, Massachusetts has no statutory or regulatory requirements for a seller to disclose a property’s flood risks or past flood damages to a potential buyer. As such, Massachusetts home buyers are largely on their own when it comes to researching a home’s past flood history or potential for future flooding.

While the Massachusetts Association of Realtors has created a disclosure form for sellers to use, the form is voluntary. Sellers do not have to provide it to a buyer. The form asks the seller to answer whether any part of the property is in a designated flood zone or wetland.

What does flood insurance cost?

Your flood insurance cost will depend on several factors unique to you property:

  • Whether or not it sits in a floodway zone, as defined by FEMA’s flood map (Use the map to see where your home sits!)
  • How high above see level you are
  • The building characteristics of your home or commercial property

According to FEMA’s national average, flood insurance costs roughly $700 per year, for up to $250,000 in coverage. But properties in moderate-to-low risk areas may qualify for lower-cost, Preferred Risk Policy rates. And again, different variables will affect your individual rate. Ask an agent to run a quote for you today. It’s quick and easy and totally free! Call us at 508.339.2951.

Does flood insurance cover all types of water damage in my home?

No, but it covers many of the common culprits. Flood insurance typically covers water damage caused by heavy rain and melting snow. It also kicks in when nearby rivers, lakes, or dams overflow. Keep in mind, the “flood” can’t just be an event in your backyard. It must affect two or more acres of normally dry land in order to meet the technical definition.

Does flood insurance protect everything I own?

No. As with all insurance policies, specific exclusions apply.

Flood insurance coverage can be broken into two parts: your home’s physical structure (frame and foundation, drywall, insulation, built-in appliances, carpeting) and your home’s contents (clothing, furniture, technology, detached appliances, etc.).

Flood insurance typically excludes jewelry, cash, and valuable papers. It does not cover your actual land (i.e. your lawn and landscaping).

Also note: flood insurance companies only cover basements (any spaces below the first floor) to a limited extent. Your policy may cover the structural components of these spaces and certain large appliances (washers and dryers), but not the kinds of valuable contents that may be found in refinished basements—furniture and electronics.

Do I need flood insurance to cover sump pump failure?

Not necessarily. Most homeowners can add something called “water backup and sump pump overflow” coverage to their home insurance policy by way of an endorsement: a piece of added coverage for a relatively small bump in your premium. Water backup is an issue that many people don’t know about, along with other surprising stuff that is not covered by “basic” home insurance.

If you rely on a sump pump in your basement, definitely ask your agent how your current policy would respond to a pump failure and any resulting damage. It probably makes sense to add this protection, either with or without flood insurance.

Does flood insurance cover water leaking from an appliance?

No. Flood insurance is not designed to address sudden, accidental waterflow that springs from an appliance. Your regular home insurance, however, should respond in most cases. Use the links below to answer your plumbing and appliance-leak questions:

How do I get flood insurance in Massachusetts?

There are two ways to buy flood insurance in MA. One is through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If your house, apartment, condo, or business property is located in an NFIP-participating community (virtually all MA towns are on this list), you can buy a flood insurance policy through a local insurance agency.

If your property is not located in one of these participating areas, you can still buy flood insurance through a private company. And even if your property qualifies for NFIP, you may still be interested in a private option (see below). Ask your MA insurance agency which option makes sense for you.

What’s the difference between national and private flood insurance?

There are a few key differences you’ll want to consider—including:

  • Coverage Limits

How much protection can you get? (Note that coverage limits for your home itself and the contents it contains are different; they also carry different deductibles.) Federally-backed flood insurance usually caps off at $250,000 for your home’s structure. If your home is worth significantly more than this, you may want to discuss other options with your agent.

  • Wait Period

How far in advance do you need to purchase coverage before it becomes effective? With NFIP-backed insurance, the wait period is typically 30 days or more, which means it’s not something you can buy once a storm is already in the forecast. Private flood insurance may be available in as few as 14 days.

  • Rates

How much will your policy cost? Your annual rate will depend on where your home is located (high, medium, or low-risk flood area), and possibly on whether or not you’ve taken any “flood-proofing” measures.

  • Availability

Not everyone will qualify for one or both of these options. And with private flood insurance, policyholders with major claims may be dropped or non-renewed by the insurer.

  • Mortgage Requirements

If you are buying a new home and the house is located in a flood plain, your lender may require an NFIP-backed flood insurance policy.

Who should I ask about flood insurance?

Ask a local agent (that’s us!) to run a quote for you today. Call us at 508.339.2951.

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