As hurricanes and tropical storms increase in frequency and intensity, flood insurance may be more critical now than ever for residents of the Sunshine State. Unless you have a special (and uncommon) endorsement, your homeowners policy does not cover floods. To help you avoid a potentially devastating blow to your finances after a flood event, Bankrate’s insurance editorial staff explores the importance of proper coverage and guides you on your journey to find Florida flood insurance quotes.

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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.

Flood insurance mandate for Citizens policyholders

Historically, the flood insurance uptake in Florida is low compared to the state’s overall flood risk, but this may soon change. In an effort to address the ongoing Florida homeowners insurance crisis, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 2-A in December of 2022. Among the many features of the bill is a new flood insurance requirement for Floridians insured with the state-backed insurer of last resort, Citizens (which currently holds over a million homeowners policies in the state).

The state is allowing for a roll-out approach regarding the flood insurance mandate. Unless you live in a special flood zone as defined by FEMA, the deadline to obtain flood insurance to be eligible for a Citizens homeowners policy varies depending on how much your home is worth, as demonstrated by the table below:

Property value Deadline to obtain flood insurance
$600,000 January 1, 2024
$500,000 January 1, 2025
$400,000 January 1, 2026
All other property values January 1, 2027

However, as mentioned, if you live in a special flood zone hazard area as determined by the FEMA flood map, you must have flood insurance by April 1, 2023, if you are applying for a new Citizens homeowners policy. For those in a special flood hazard zone already insured with Citizens, you’ll need to obtain flood coverage by July 1, 2023 (or by your next renewal if it falls after this date).

Additionally, if your Citizens homeowners policy excludes wind as a peril, you will not be required to obtain flood insurance.

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 from some of the several private flood insurance companies in Florida. 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

Frequently asked questions

    • You might. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage automatically, although a few companies offer flood insurance as an endorsement. Most people will need to purchase a standalone flood insurance policy if they want coverage for flood damage. If you have a mortgage or any other type of home loan and you are in a flood zone, you’ll likely have to buy flood insurance as a condition of your loan. Additionally, if you insure your home with Citizens, you’ll also probably be required to purchase a flood policy. If you don’t have a mortgage, assessing your flood risk could help you decide if a policy is right for you.
    • Landlords will usually insure the building or property you rent, but this coverage fails to protect your personal belongings. If you rent your home, contents-only flood insurance is an excellent solution to protect your belongings.
    • If you have a mortgage or home loan and your home is at risk for flood damage, you’ll probably have to buy a flood insurance policy. Also, most people who insure their home through Citizens will eventually need to purchase a flood policy to be eligible for homeowners coverage. If you aren’t required to buy flood insurance, the decision is highly personal. But knowing that floods can happen for many reasons — hurricanes and heavy rain included — and understanding your home’s risk might help you decide if a policy is right for you. If you aren’t sure if you should buy flood insurance, talking with an agent might be helpful.
    • We hear about FEMA delivering support after a particularly bad storm, but this kind of help is not guaranteed. To receive FEMA aid, you must live within a federally-declared disaster area. Additionally, these funds must often be repaid within a certain timeframe. By having your own flood insurance policy, you may be able to bypass the red tape and get the support you need.
    • According to FEMA, a flood is a “general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of 2 or more acres of normally dry land area or of 2 or more properties,” including your own property. Floods can be the result of inland or tidal waters overflowing, the accumulation of surface water, mudslides or shoreline collapse. Many homeowners use the word “flood” to describe any kind of water accumulation in their home, including sewer backup, but these types of damages are not true floods.