By now everyone has seen the images of the devastating flooding from of Hurricane Harvey's path. While our thoughts are with the victims for their safety, one cannot help but wonder what the future holds for these people, and how we would deal with such loss. (If you're looking to help with the current efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, here's a link to npr.org's "Here's How You Can Help People Affected By Harvey").
Under current flood insurance rules, most homeowners with mortgages that live in high-risk areas for flooding, called Special Flood Hazard Zones, must buy flood insurance. Unfortunately, most of the Houston area falls outside areas where flood insurance is required and according to a recent AP story it is estimated that fewer than 20% of homeowners with flood damage in Houston's Harris County have flood insurance. Those without coverage will be left applying for federal disaster relief benefits in the form of low-interest loans, paying for repairs on their own, or simply not be able to rebuild.
So what if you aren't in a Special Flood Hazard Zone, or you don't have a mortgage on your home? If it isn't required, should you still purchase flood insurance? Is flood insurance available for renters, too?
Does everyone need flood insurance? The answer is most likely 'no'. But don't make the assumption that you don't, without talking to a qualified individual. You can start with asking your insurance agent and checking out the NFIP website. Review your current policies and ask questions about different scenarios. Am I at risk for flooding from excessive runoff from higher elevations or overflow from rivers, canals, or laterals? Does my current policy cover my belongings if flooding is caused by a city water line break or a sewer back up?
Adding an endorsement to your existing policy will go into effect immediately. But should you decide to add a separate flood insurance policy, there is a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase until your policy goes into effect, with few exceptions. The time to ask is now.