The Meaning of ‘Floods’ In Conventional Homeowner’s Insurance Policies

by 28 Jul 2012

When most people purchase homeowner's insurance, they expect that coverage to pay for everything that might happen to a home.  After all, if they're paying top dollar for premiums, they should be rewarded with ample protection.  Unfortunately, homeowner's insurance policies have limitations, and some policies exclude certain perils or damages.  

One of the most common exclusions for a homeowner's policy is flood damage.  In order to have your flood damages covered, you will need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.  You may also be surprised at what constitutes flood damages as not all water damage is handled in the same way.  

What is a Flood:  

Insurance companies generally define a flood as water entering the home from ground level:  

-- Rising rivers, lakebeds or other bodies of water due to heavy rains
-- Flash flooding seeping into the house
-- Water damage from hurricanes or tsunamis
-- Sewer backup caused by excess rains
-- Broken water mains causing water to rise up in basements or come in from outside

Any time water rises from outside and enters the home at ground level, it will be handled as a flood.  This is true whether the water is the result of rains, broken dams or backed-up sewers.  

Water Damages Covered by Homeowner's Policies:  

Some water damage is handled by a regular homeowner's policy.  As a rule, any water that did not enter the home at ground level will not be considered a flood:  

-- Leaky pipes in the walls
-- Appliances that overflow
-- Holes in the ceiling leaking during rains
-- Roof damage that leads to interior water damage

Any damages caused by water that did not enter the house at ground level will usually be handled under a homeowner's insurance policy rather than the flood policy. 

Filing a Flood Claim

When you call to file a claim with your insurance company, the representative will ask questions about your loss so that he or she can determine which coverages will apply.  In most cases, your flood claim will be taken at the same time as the homeowner's claim, and if you have both types of policies you may not immediately realize that two claims have been filed.  

The flood claim will be handled by representatives from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), however, not your regular insurance company.  This means that once the claim has been filed, a member of the NFIP will contact you to follow up and resolve the claims process. 

If you do not have flood insurance on your policy, you will receive a letter of denial from the insurance company explaining which damages cannot be paid and why.  In order to avoid this, it's a good idea to make sure you have flood coverage when you obtain your homeowner's policy.  Even if you don't live in a flood plain, flood insurance is a good idea to have and it's usually very affordable, so there's no reason not to obtain a flood policy.  

Because insurance can be confusing, it's a good idea to check with an insurance professional to confirm what type of policy you need and whether you have appropriate coverages.  You can confer with a flood policy specialist to get a policy that will suit your needs.  

Karl Stockton writes on real estate, finance, investment and current issues. This article was penned for