Flooding is a serious threat to homeowners in South Carolina, especially after hurricanes and heavy rain storms. Data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) found that every county in South Carolina has experienced a flood event, with the most flood events reported in Charleston County. If you own a home in South Carolina, it’s important to be aware of flood risks and take the right precautions to protect your home. You should also consider purchasing flood insurance for financial peace of mind in the event of a major flood.

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Why South Carolina homeowners need flood insurance

South Carolina’s location means it is regularly in the path of tropical storms and hurricanes, which often lead to flooding. Coastal homes usually face the highest risk, but strong storms can damage inland properties, too. For example, an estimated 188,329 single-family homes in Charleston and 183,757 homes in Myrtle Beach are at risk of sustaining flood damage from a storm surge.

Looking back at the last several decades, South Carolina has been no stranger to catastrophic flooding. In October 2015, a combination of powerful storm systems dumped over 20 inches of rain in some areas. The storm set rainfall records statewide, killing 25 people and causing an estimated $2.2 billion in damages.

In addition, some South Carolina homeowners need flood insurance to satisfy the requirements of a mortgage. Many lenders require homeowners with properties in high-risk flood zones to carry flood insurance until their mortgage is paid off.

Even if flood insurance is not required, many South Carolina homeowners have this type of coverage. In 2016, nearly 200,500 NFIP policies were in place in South Carolina, 68% of which covered single-family residences.

Cost of flood insurance in South Carolina

In 2019, flood claims paid by the NFIP averaged $52,000 and the average NFIP annual premium cost $700, according to the most recent data from FEMA. To calculate flood insurance premiums, the NFIP uses several factors to assess risk, including:

  • Location: Coastal properties may cost more to insure, because they generally have a higher flood risk. Factors such as a property’s elevation or its risk of mudslide damage may also play a role in the cost of flood insurance.
  • Loss history: If your home has a history of flood claims, you may pay higher flood insurance premiums.
  • Replacement cost: As with homeowners insurance, your home’s replacement cost plays a role in how much you will pay for flood insurance. NFIP residential building policies cover a wide range of your home’s elements, including electrical and plumbing systems, foundation walls, kitchen appliances and solar energy equipment. Higher replacement costs generally lead to higher flood insurance premiums.
  • Type of property: Flood insurance premiums are often assessed differently for residential and commercial buildings. The NFIP offers up to $500,000 in building coverage and up to $500,000 in building contents coverage on commercial properties. The program offers lower coverage levels for residential properties, up to $250,000 in building coverage and up to $100,000 in contents coverage. You must buy building and contents coverages separately.

In October 2021, FEMA began implementing Risk Rating 2.0, a simplified risk rating plan that calculates flood insurance premiums based on factors such as a flood frequency, flood types, distance to a water source, home rebuild costs and elevation. The goal of Risk Rating 2.0 is to make flood insurance premiums more fair by setting rates based on a homeowner’s unique flood risks.

When to purchase flood insurance

If you wait until a hurricane or tropical storm appears on the radar to buy flood insurance, you might be too late. NFIP policies have a 30-day coverage waiting period. However, there are rare exceptions to the waiting period. For instance, the 30-day waiting period does not apply when you refinance your home, when you extend or increase the coverage of an existing flood insurance policy or if your home floods as the result of adjacent federal land laid bare following a wildfire. The waiting period is also waived if you buy flood insurance on a property you just purchased.

For a policy that covers a property located in newly designated high-risk flood areas, the NFIP applies a one-day coverage waiting period, but only when the policy is purchased within 13 months of the designation.

NFIP policies feature a one-year term, which you can renew to continue coverage. They also feature a 30-day renewal grace period. The NFIP may pay claims for covered losses that occur during the grace period, but only if you pay the renewal premium before the grace period ends.

Some private insurance companies do offer flood insurance and their regulations may be different from the NFIP.

How to purchase flood insurance in South Carolina

Flood coverage can be purchased through the NFIP or from some private insurance carriers. The NFIP features a flood insurance provider lookup tool on its website. Select your state to access a list of insurers that sell flood insurance.

Currently, more than 30 carriers sell flood insurance policies in South Carolina, including major companies such as Allstate, Auto-Owners, Liberty Mutual and South Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company.

If you need more coverage than an NFIP policy can provide, consider buying private flood insurance. Private flood insurance policies may offer different coverage limits and rates than the NFIP, so it is worth the time to compare quotes.

When you purchase flood insurance, you are usually required to pay your premium upfront and in full. This differs from homeowners insurance, which can often be paid for in monthly installments.

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