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Due to Virginia’s coastal location, many residential properties in the state are located in flood zones. The highest risk flood areas in Virginia are Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, which are located in close proximity to the ocean. But even in inland Virginia, flooding can be caused by a variety of things, like failed dams, heavy rain and melting snow. As a result, Virginia homeowners should strongly consider purchasing flood insurance to financially protect themselves from the consequences of a major flood event.
Why Virginia homeowners might need flood insurance
While flooding is not as common in Virginia as in other states, like Louisiana and Florida, flood events do happen. In 2021, storm remnants from Hurricane Ida caused dangerous flash flooding and more than 4.5 inches of rain across parts of Virginia. The flood waters knocked 20 houses off their foundations in Western Virginia and washed away several trailers.
One of the most important reasons to consider flood insurance is that standard home insurance policies don’t usually cover flood damage. If your home is damaged in a flood event, whether it’s accidental or caused by a natural disaster, only a flood insurance policy will pay to repair your dwelling and replace personal belongings. Without flood insurance, you would be financially responsible for making the necessary repairs out-of-pocket.
In addition, many lenders will require you to purchase flood insurance if your home is in a high-risk flood area. Even if you do not need to show proof of flood insurance to the bank, you may still want to consider purchasing it to protect your home. The average NFIP claim is $19,000 in Virginia, and while that is significantly below the $52,000 national average, it’s a cost that many homeowners would not want to pay out of pocket. Flood insurance is one way to protect yourself from this possibility.
Cost of flood insurance in Virginia
How much you pay for flood insurance in Virginia depends on several different factors. The average annual cost of a policy through the NFIP in the United States is $700, based on the most recent data from 2019.
In October 2021, FEMA implemented Risk Rating 2.0, which changed the way it assessed flood risk and calculated flood insurance costs. The new system uses a more streamlined set of factors to determine flood insurance premiums and make rates more fair, based on the unique flood risks each homeowner faces. Here are some of the factors that impact flood insurance rates in Virginia:
- Type and amount of coverage: The NFIP offers two types of coverage: building coverage and contents coverage. For residential homes, the maximum building coverage limit is $250,000 and the maximum contents coverage limit is $100,000. Businesses can purchase commercial flood insurance, with up to $500,000 in building coverage and contents coverage.
- Flood types and frequency: Under Risk Rating 2.0, NFIP flood insurance premiums are now based on the types of floods and frequency of floods in the area. For example, if most flooding is caused by river overflow, you might pay a different rate than a homeowner in an area with a higher risk of coastal erosion or heavy rainfall.
- Proximity to a water source: Homes that are closer to water sources (not just the ocean) typically pay higher rates for flood insurance.
- Geographic location: If your home is in a high-risk flood zone, you may pay more for flood insurance than if you were in a low-risk zone.
- Your home’s value: As with homeowner’s insurance, the more expensive your home will be to repair, the higher the cost of flood insurance could be.
- The elevation of your property: Even if your home is in a high-risk flood zone, if it is significantly elevated, you may see a reduction in premiums.
- Whether your home has a basement: Since basements are below ground level, they may be more likely to flood than other areas of the home.
When to purchase flood insurance
Since floods are impossible to predict far in advance, it is best to purchase flood insurance as soon as possible. Do not wait until flooding is in the forecast to look for a policy, as you may not find coverage if flooding is imminent. NFIP flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect.
For instance, if you purchase coverage on a Tuesday and a heavy rainstorm floods your home on the following Saturday, you would not be able to use your flood insurance benefits. However, if you buy flood insurance through a private insurer, rather than the NFIP, the waiting period might be different.
How to purchase flood insurance in Virginia
Homeowners in Virginia generally have two options to purchase flood insurance. The first is through the NFIP. These government-backed policies are available from 29 insurance providers in Virginia and offer up to $250,000 in building coverage and $100,000 in contents coverage for residential homes. Building coverage and contents coverage must be purchased separately, but it’s recommended to purchase both.
With an NFIP policy, flood insurance claims for your home’s contents are reimbursed on an actual cash value basis, which is less than what it might cost to replace them as depreciation is taken into consideration. Your dwelling is also covered based on its replacement value, which means you can’t get reimbursed for an amount above the policy limit. Also, remember that all NFIP policies have a 30-day waiting period, so your coverage won’t take effect immediately.
The second option is to purchase private flood insurance. Private insurers may offer more policy options than NFIP coverage. You may also be able to find private flood insurance with a waiting period shorter than 30 days, although this is up to each individual insurer.
With any type of flood insurance, the insurance company typically requires the annual premium to be paid for upfront and in full. You may not have the option to pay the premium in monthly installments, like you might with a homeowners insurance premium. Also, keep in mind that flood insurance policies need to be renewed each year.