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North Carolina flood insurance

Storm Damage After Hurricane Florence
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Many North Carolina residents face a high risk of flood damage to their businesses, homes and apartments. Home and renters insurance typically does not cover damages caused by flooding. Flood insurance protects buildings and their contents, but unfortunately, only a small percentage of North Carolina residents carry flood insurance.

For many, flood insurance is relatively affordable, but the cost of coverage can depend on several factors, including your location. While insurance providers sell private flood insurance, most homeowners buy coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Why North Carolina homeowners might want flood insurance

From 2000 to 2015, North Carolina received more than $456 million in federal assistance following floods, hurricanes and severe storms, according to North Carolina Flood Insurance. Among the top 10 most costly hurricanes, five have wreaked havoc on North Carolina. Following Hurricane Sandy, private insurance companies suffered $57 million in losses in North Carolina.

But the Atlantic coastline is not the only North Carolina region at risk of flooding. Floods, many severe, affect all North Carolina regions. Unfortunately, most North Carolinians are underinsured for flood losses. Although more than 4,000,000 people call the Tarheel State home, only around 130,000 property owners carried flood insurance in 2017. Even so, over 1.3 million acres of property in North Carolina, valued at $8 billion, remain vulnerable to flooding.

Standard homeowners and renters policies do not cover flood damage. NFIP policies pay up to $250,000 for residential building losses and up to $100,000 for contents, and you must buy building and content coverage separately. Private flood insurance may offer higher limits, plus other advantages, such as replacement cost protection for contents and structures and loss of use coverage, but is likely more expensive.

Cost of flood insurance in North Carolina

According to FEMA, in 2019, NFIP flood claims averaged $52,000 nationwide. The same year, homeowners paid an average flood insurance premium of around $700. A few private insurers write private flood insurance policies, but the federal government administers the majority through the NFIP.

The underwriting process may vary among private flood insurance companies. Factors that can affect the cost of NFIP flood insurance may include:

  • Age and design of your property
  • Flood zone in which your property lies
  • Location and elevation of the property and its utility structures
  • Type of coverage, such as building, contents or both
  • Deductible levels

For the most accurate insurance premium estimate, request a quote from a provider that sells NFIP or private flood insurance or speak with a licensed insurance agent.

When to purchase flood insurance

If you live in a moderate- or high-risk flood zone, it is not a good idea to delay buying flood insurance. You can find your property’s flood risk using the floodplain mapping tool on the North Carolina Flood Risk Information System website.

In most cases, you cannot file an NFIP claim until 30 days after purchasing a policy, so buying a policy as a storm approaches may not provide protection in time. However, the NFIP waives the 30-day waiting period under certain circumstances, such as:

  • When you buy a policy while taking out or refinancing a mortgage
  • When you alter your coverage when renewing an existing flood insurance policy
  • When the flood damage is caused by burning or flooding of adjacent federal property

When you purchase a house or commercial property within 13 months of the property being deemed high-risk for flooding, the NFIP reduces the waiting period to one day.

How to purchase flood insurance in North Carolina

Many major insurance providers sell NFIP policies, including Allstate, Geico and Liberty Mutual. If you already have a business, homeowners or renters policy, ask your agent if the carrier offers private flood insurance or NFIP policies. According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, all but 28 communities participate in the NFIP. You can find insurers who participate in the NFIC program using the provider look-up tool on the FEMA website. Flood insurance is available for businesses, homeowners and renters. If you’re buying a new home, you can purchase a flood insurance policy at closing.

How to file a NFIP flood insurance claim

You can file an NFIP claim by calling (877) 336-2627. After contacting the NFIP, take photographs and videos of damaged personal property, including the contents of cabinets and closets and exterior and interior structures. If appliances such as a refrigerator or stove were damaged, take a photograph of the serial number.

To prevent mold, remove wet items such as carpeting, curtains and furniture, but keep samples of destroyed items to present to the adjuster. If electrical or heating and air conditioning systems suffer damage, you can initiate repair before the adjuster visits your home but keep receipts for the services.

Due to COVID-19 risks, you have the option to choose an in-person or remote adjuster appointment. If you choose a remote appointment, the adjuster will guide you through the documentation process, which can take several hours. They may ask for specific photographic or video documentation and may require you to take measurements of interior spaces or exterior walls. During the appointment, the adjuster can address questions about your coverage and the claims process.

If your business or home suffers damage from a storm that earns an official Presidential Disaster Declaration, you may qualify for FEMA disaster assistance, along with a flood insurance settlement. FEMA disaster assistance can help pay expenses such as temporary housing.

Frequently asked questions

Does my homeowners policy cover flood damage?

No. Standard homeowners and renters policies do not cover flood damage to buildings or their contents, but flood insurance does.

How can I find out if my North Carolina home is at risk of flooding?

To find out the flood risk to your property, navigate to the North Carolina Flood Risk Information System website and enter your address. The system will provide you with your flood zone, risk information and monthly and yearly flood insurance premium estimates.

How much does flood insurance cost in North Carolina?

Nationwide, NFIP policies cost an average of $700 per year in 2019, according to FEMA. But the cost of flood insurance can depend on several factors, including your flood zone, your home’s age and design and the types of coverages you buy.

Where can I buy flood insurance?

To find insurers that sell NFIP policies, use the provider look-up tool on the FEMA website. Nearly 30 carriers sell NFIP policies in North Carolina, including Allstate, Auto-Owners Insurance, Homesite, Liberty Mutual and USAA. You can also buy private flood insurance from insurers.

Written by
Michael Evans
Former Personal Finance Contributor
Michael Evans is a former contributor to Bankrate and has worked in numerous industries, including education, finance, government, insurance and journalism. He began writing professionally while working for the world's first online mortgage brokerage in San Francisco, California. His writings have appeared in print and online publications, including Fox Business, International Living, Motley Fool and Yahoo Finance. He and his family divide their time between residences in Northern California and Colombia. When Michael is not writing, he enjoys working in his photography business and playing with his cat, Cyndi Lou.