According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flooding affected 99% of U.S. counties between 1996 and 2019, and South Carolina counties were no exception. Coastal and inland South Carolina homeowners face the risk of floods caused by tropical storms and hurricanes. In 2016, insurers paid $654 million in losses following Hurricane Matthew and the following year Hurricane Irma caused more than $1 billion in losses in South Carolina and neighboring states.
Typically, standard home insurance policies do not cover flood-related damages to your house or personal property. South Carolina homeowners can protect their homes with a separate flood insurance policy.
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 often face the highest risk, but strong storms can damage inland properties. More than 37,000 South Carolina homes face the risk of storm surge from a Category I storm and the number increases to nearly 364,000 for Category V storms.
South Carolina is 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.
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 FEMA. In 2016, nearly 200,500 NFIP policies were in place in South Carolina, 68% of which covered single-family residences. 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 plans to implement Risk Rating 2.0, a simplified risk rating plan that will focus on rating factors such as a property’s distance from the coast, rebuilding cost and types of 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, 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. 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.
Frequently asked questions
Is flooding covered by homeowners insurance?
Most standard home insurance policies do not cover damage caused by flooding. A separate flood insurance policy is needed to provide flood coverage. South Carolina’s history of severe weather means that residents may want to consider buying flood insurance.
Is flood insurance more expensive than homeowners insurance?
The price you will pay for home insurance and flood insurance will depend on factors specific to your home. Many factors can affect homeowners insurance premiums, including your home’s age, location, proximity to a fire station and replacement cost. Likewise, when determining flood insurance rates, the NFIP and private insurers apply factors such as the types of flood risks in your area, your home’s proximity to a coastline and its replacement cost. According to FEMA, U.S. homeowners paid an average annual flood insurance premium of $700 in 2019.
How can I find a flood insurance provider?
FEMA offers a flood insurance provider lookup tool on its website. Since many major insurers participate in the NFIP, check with your home insurance agent to find out if your provider sells flood insurance.