The Sunshine State may have a glowing nickname, but hurricanes and heavy rains are common, and these storms often bring flooding. Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, though, which means that you could be risking high out-of-pocket costs if you don’t have flood insurance. Bankrate can help you understand the flood risks that Florida homeowners face and show you how to get a flood insurance policy that fits your needs.

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Why Florida homeowners need flood insurance

Despite much of Florida being at risk for flood damage, only 13 percent of homes in the state have a flood insurance policy.  But the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) notes that the average claim payout for Florida flood damage is $28,900, which means that homeowners without flood insurance are risking hefty expenses. Flood insurance can help pay for the devastating damage that floods can cause — even one inch of water can cause up to $25,000 in damage to a home.

Flood insurance is not a part of standard homeowners insurance coverage. Many homeowners mistakenly think that flood damage will be covered by their home insurance policy, only to find out that they must pay for damages out of pocket. Considering and potentially purchasing flood insurance before a flood event happens — most policies have a 30-day waiting period, with a few exceptions — could help you protect your finances from the threat of costly repairs.

Cost of flood insurance in Florida

Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), with the backing of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and several private insurers. NFIP insurance is available when you live in an area that supports floodplain management ordinances; currently, the NFIP has 23,000 communities. The NFIP reports that the average cost of flood insurance is $700 per year, but your rate will depend on your specific rating factors and may be much higher depending on your area’s risk level.

FEMA uses flood zones to determine how likely flooding is in a given area. Different flood zone designations have different risk levels. Generally, zones B, C and X have a moderate-to-low risk of flooding, while zones that start with A or V have a higher risk. Subzones, like zone AE or zone V1, exist within the high-risk zones to give a more detailed view of the risk in that area. A location with a zone D designation means no mapping has been done in that area, and the flood risk is unknown. Generally, the higher the risk of flooding in your area, the more expensive your policy is likely to be.

Before you select a policy, check with your mortgage company to see what, if any, specific requirements exist for your flood insurance.

When to purchase flood insurance

Most flood policies require a 30-day waiting period before your coverage kicks in, so planning ahead and buying your coverage well before a storm is essential. If a storm is coming your way, it’s already too late to protect your home with flood insurance; in addition to the waiting period, the NFIP and private flood insurance companies may put a moratorium in place, which halts the sale of new policies. A few exceptions to the 30-day waiting period exist, including if you are closing on a loan or if your home is newly mapped into a high-risk area. Still, for most homeowners, coverage will start 30 days after purchasing a flood policy.

How to purchase flood insurance in Florida

When you are ready to buy, you might want to get quotes for NFIP coverage as well as private market flood insurance. If you choose to purchase insurance from the NFIP, you can purchase your flood insurance policy from NFIP Direct or an insurance company that helps facilitate NFIP policies.

You can also contact private insurance companies that offer their own flood insurance. These policies will be underwritten by a private insurer, not by the government. Rates for private flood insurance likely vary from NFIP rates, and you may have different coverage options.

The Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) highlights the top 10 writers of private flood insurance in 2021 by market share:

Rank Company Name
1. Zurich Insurance Group
2. American International Group (AIG)
3. Assurant Inc.
4. AXA
5. Swiss Re Ltd.
6. Liberty Mutual
7. Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
8. Arch Capital Group Ltd.
9. Chubb
10. Allstate

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