Flood insurance is a separate policy from homeowners insurance. It is often purchased through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but lately, more private options are appearing on the market.
Flood insurance is simply a part of life for many Massachusetts residents, as the state is impacted by floodwaters year after year. If you’re a resident of the state or planning to move there, it’s a good idea to know how to buy flood insurance, how much it costs and how to file a claim if and when nature strikes.
Why Massachusetts homeowners might want flood insurance
Massachusetts has a history of flooding both in the distant and recent past. FEMA reports that most of Massachusetts has been impacted by floodwater every year for the past 23 years. Flood events are such a common occurrence in the state that it’s not unusual for Massachusetts to have well over 50 incidents (in 2018, the state had well over 80).
As you might expect, the cost impact has been quite severe to both insurance companies and homeowners. The NFIP paid an average of $52,000 to homeowners in 2019 with homes damaged by floodwaters.
Cost of flood insurance in Massachusetts
Flood insurance rates in Massachusetts are determined by what flood zone your home or property is in, which you can easily determine by inputting your address into FEMA’s flood map. For example, Boston has three different flood zones that insurers look at to assess flood risk.
Additionally, your provider will also consider the following when determining your premium:
- Design of your home
- Age of your home
- Location of your home’s utilities
- Coverage amount
- Deductible amount
It’s possible to lower your flood insurance costs by getting an elevation certificate, which verifies that your home’s elevation is above the average height of floodwaters for your area.
When to purchase flood insurance
Massachusetts homeowners insurance laws don’t legally require you to have flood insurance. Still, if you have a mortgage, your lender may require it if your home is in a special flood hazard area (SFHA), which is an area close to the water and low in elevation.
It’s typically best to purchase flood insurance as soon as you buy a home in a flood zone. If you’re nervous about a coming storm and don’t have flood insurance, you can certainly purchase flood insurance, but there is a 30-day waiting period before you can file a claim.
Fortunately, there are exceptions where you don’t have to wait the full 30 days.
- If you’re purchasing flood insurance because your area’s flood map has changed and indicated your home is at risk, you have 13 months to buy flood insurance without a 30 day wait period for filing a claim. If you do this, there is only a one-day wait period.
- If you have just purchased, renewed, increased or extended a home loan, you may purchase flood insurance without a 30-day wait period.
How to purchase flood insurance in Massachusetts
The easiest way to purchase flood insurance is to call your homeowners insurance provider and speak with an agent. You can also call the NFIP Help Center at (800) 427-4661. An agent will get you a quote and can answer any additional questions you may have. Currently, most homeowners purchase flood insurance through the federal government’s NFIP program, but there may be other options, such as private flood insurance.
NFIP does not currently offer additional living expenses coverage or loss-of-use coverage with their policies. If you purchase an NFIP policy and floodwaters damage your home, it will be up to you to pay any additional housing and food costs out-of-pocket.
How to file a NFIP flood insurance claim
It’s a good idea to check with your provider to learn more about their claims process when purchasing your policy. Typically, however, these are the steps you will likely be asked to follow.
If your home is damaged by flooding, immediately call your insurance provider and speak with an agent. An insurance adjuster will visit your home and assess how much damage has been done by floodwaters shortly after.
If you can, take pictures of any areas damaged by floodwaters if it is safe to do so. If possible, try to get shots that show how high the water rose and be sure to take pictures of the inside of your home, too.
To expedite the process, separate damaged items from undamaged items— making sure to protect your belongings from further damage if you can.
While the adjuster is there, you may request an advance or partial payment for your losses.
Frequently asked questions
How much is flood insurance in MA
The average amount Massachusetts’ homeowners pay for flood insurance is $1,291 a year, making it the fifth most expensive state for flood insurance (the national average is around $700). According to our data, the top four most expensive states are:
- Vermont: $1,569
- Connecticut: $1,475
- Rhode Island: $1,424
- Pennsylvania: $1,316
Do renters need flood insurance?
If you’re a renter, you should not need a standard flood insurance policy because you are not insuring your home’s structure (that task falls to your landlord). You might, however, want to purchase what is known as renters flood insurance to protect your belongings. If you don’t, you will have to pay out of pocket to replace your damaged items if floodwaters damage them.
A standard renter’s insurance policy usually doesn’t cover damage to your belongings resulting from flood damage. Still, it typically protects you from water damage resulting from a burst pipe, which is why there is sometimes some confusion. Speak with your renters insurance carrier to determine exactly what your policy covers.
What does flood insurance not cover?
Flood insurance does not usually cover the following:
- Your car
- Any property or belongings not inside of an insured home
- Currency, stock certificates, precious metals, etc.
- Loss of use
- Additional living expenses
- Preventable mold, mildew, or moisture damage
- Earth movement resulting from a flood
What are the most common causes of flooding?
Several things can cause flooding. They are:
- Heavy, consistent rainfall
- Melting snow
- Blocked drainage systems
- Offshore storms
- Ice jams
In Massachusetts, many floods are attributed to the Connecticut, Merrimack and Nashua Rivers becoming overburdened with rainwater.