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Flood Insurance

Screen capture of Floodsmart.gov flood damage estimatorSince damages resulting from flooding are usually not covered under regular homeowner or business insurance policies, specific flood insurance policies are needed. Renters may also purchase contents coverage flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 made affordable flood insurance possible through federally-subsidized programs.  Property owners in Pima County may purchase flood insurance that will typically cover structures and their contents from losses due to flooding. Improvements such as fencing, walls, swimming pools, landscaping or small storage sheds, however, are usually not covered by this insurance.

If your home is in a federally-mapped (FEMA) floodplain and you finance it with a loan backed by the federal government, then flood insurance is mandatory.  Even when not required by law, the District always recommends purchasing flood insurance.  Many flood damaged structures are located outside of federally mapped floodplains.  During the 2012 monsoon season, for example, at least 8 homes flooded, none of which were located in a FEMA floodplain, and only one of which was in a locally mapped floodplain.  It is not uncommon for property owners to discover that their homeowners insurance does not cover flooding only after they have been flooded.  A recent example from Maricopa County highlights the importance of considering flood insurance even if your property is not within a FEMA or locally mapped floodplain.

When you are planning to purchase a new home or property always confirm the floodplain status of the property before you purchase the property.  You can do this yourself by contacting our office.  Please note that real estate agents are only required to determine if a property is within a federally mapped floodplain, so if your realtor provides flood information to you, be sure to verify whether or not the realtor has determined if the property is impacted by locally mapped floodplains.  Additional information on flood insurance can also be obtained from FEMA.

Flood Insurance & The National Flood Insurance Program

What is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)?

The NFIP is a federal program that enables property owners to purchase flood insurance and is intended to curb escalating costs of repairing flood damaged buildings and their contents. Until NFIP was enacted, this type of coverage was generally not available from private-sector insurance companies.

Why was the NFIP established by Congress?

The United States Congress created the NFIP in response to an increasing number of flood losses and the increasing cost of disaster relief that was being borne by all taxpayers. For decades, the national response to flood disasters was generally limited to constructing flood control works such as dams, levees, sea walls, and the like and to providing disaster relief to flood victims after a flood event. This approach did not reduce losses, nor did it discourage unwise development in flood prone areas. To compound the problem, property owners generally could not buy flood coverage from private insurance companies. Building techniques to reduce flood damage also were often overlooked.

Protect What You've BuiltThe intent of NFIP is twofold: 1) to minimize future damage from flood events, and; 2) to provide property owners with protection from flood losses through an insurance program. Costs of the insurance are paid by those most in need of, and potentially benefiting from, this protection.

Am I required to obtain flood insurance?

Federally insured lenders are required by the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 to have flood insurance on properties with structures located in a Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), or what is more commonly referred to as the 100-year floodplain.  Lenders pass that insurance requirement to the property owners.


How can I purchase flood insurance for my property?

Your regular homeowner's or business insurance policy probably does not cover losses due to floods. However, because Pima County participates in the NFIP, you can buy special flood insurance to cover your home and its contents from flood damage. Contact your local insurance agent, or any licensed property insurance agent or broker to obtain flood insurance coverage.

When will my policy coverage become effective?

There is a 30-day waiting period between the date of purchase and the effective date of the coverage.  The 30-day waiting period is waived in certain circumstances, such as when flood insurance is purchased in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of your loan, when a property is newly mapped in a floodplain, and if the property is affected by an increased flood risk due to a forest fire on federal land.

 

What types of property may be insured against flood loss?

NFIP coverage is available for all owners and occupants of insurable property (a building and/or its contents) in a community participating in the NFIP. Owners as well as renters may insure their personal property against flood loss. Buildings in the process of being constructed, condominium associations, and owners of residential condominium units may all purchase flood insurance.

Almost every type of walled and roofed building that is mostly above ground and not situated entirely over water may be insured. In most cases, this includes manufactured or mobile homes that are anchored to permanent foundations. Travel trailers, converted buses or vans, however, are typically not covered. As with other structures, the contents within insurable buildings also may be insured under separate coverage.

What flood losses are covered?

Your individual policy will specify the kind and amount of coverage it provides. Direct physical losses resulting from flood events are covered, as are losses due to flood-related erosion. Damages caused by mudslides are also usually covered.

In certain cases, NFIP will pay claims on insured buildings that are subject to imminent collapse due to erosion in order that the building can either be demolished or relocated before any damage occurs. Specific requirements must be met for such claims to be paid, and the amounts of payment are subject to specific limits.

Are there certain buildings that cannot be covered?

Flood insurance is not available for buildings which the Federal Insurance Administrator determines have been declared to be in violation of state or local floodplain management regulations or ordinances. No new policies can be written to cover such buildings, nor can an existing policy be renewed.

How are flood insurance premiums calculated?

A number of factors are used to determine premium rates for flood insurance coverage. They include: the amount of coverage purchased, the location, the age and design of the building, building occupancy, and for buildings in Special Flood Hazard areas, building elevation. Only single-family and 1-4 family dwellings in Zones C, D, and X indicated on Flood Insurance Rate Maps are eligible for preferred risk coverage at reduced premium rates. Certain loss limitations are in effect for these buildings, depending on the amount of insurance purchased. See FloodSmart.gov for more details.

The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Biggert-Waters Act)

The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (commonly referred to as the Biggert-Waters Act) was passed in Congress in July of 2012. The purpose of the bill was to reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to make the program more economically sound by increasing flood insurance premiums to reflect the true flood risk. For more information visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Insurance Reform Act web page. There is also a National Flood Insurance Program and the Biggert-Waters Act video on YouTube.

Flood Insurance Questions Involving Letters of Map Revision (LOMRs)

Most of the questions that were found in this section are now answered in a separate LOMR FAQ.

What if my lender requires me to carry flood insurance even if my residence or business is outside the 100-year floodplain?

 A few lenders may still require flood insurance based on their lending policies even when a structure lies outside the 100-year floodplain.  If a residence or business has been removed from the floodplain, premiums paid on flood insurance should be decreased to reflect the lower flood risk.

Community Rating System

The National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System (CRS) is designed to recognize and reward communities such as Pima County that work to reduce flood damages through various floodplain management and flood awareness activities. Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the program can significantly reduce flood insurance premiums paid by local property owners. Pima County entered the program on October 1, 1991.

Some of the District activities recognized in the CRS program include:

  • Reducing potential flood damages to existing buildings, especially those that have incurred repeated flood damages in the past
  • Improving management of developing areas that are not mapped by the National Flood Insurance Program
  • Requiring greater protection than the minimum standards set by the National Flood Insurance Program
  • Providing community-wide flood emergency response services
  • Helping residents to obtain more information about flooding and flood insurance

By providing enhanced customer services and implementing higher regulatory standards, the District’s participation in the CRS allows residents of unincorporated Pima County to obtain lower flood insurance rates. In 2007, the FEMA announced that Pima County achieved a CRS Class 5 rating. This rating resulted in a 25% reduction in flood insurance premiums for properties within the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) and a 10% reduction for properties outside SFHA’s. This designation puts Pima County in the top five percent of the 1049 communities currently participating in the CRS nationwide.

FEMA Policy & Claim Statistics for Flood Insurance shows that 2503 policies were in force within unincorporated Pima County as of June 30, 2011. These policies provide $562,725,100 in coverage at an annual premium cost of $1,598,430. Countywide the average premium is $689 while being just $639 within unincorporated areas. While the premiums are $50 lower in unincorporated Pima County, the average insurance coverage amount is actually $4,787 higher, so residents of unincorporated Pima County are getting more coverage at less cost than residents within incorporated areas. While this added value is not entirely the result of the District’s excellent CRS rating, it is a factor and these savings are significant.