Nestled between the Potomac and Anacostia rivers on one side and the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay on the other, Washington DC has no shortage of splendid sights to behold. These majestic bodies of water, coupled with summer storms and winter melt offer a high risk of floods. Does your homeowners insurance policy adequately protect you from the damage of high waters and flooding rivers? Before you search for flood insurance quotes, there are several factors to keep in mind.
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A History of Flooding in Washington, DC
The nation's treasures stored at various sites around the Capital aren't the only things at risk for floods. The damage done at these historic sites points to the inherent dangers all those living in Washington, DC can face:
- During the flood of June 2, 1889, the Potomac River crested 12.5 feet above flood stage, flooding many areas of Washington, DC.
- Floodwaters reached the steps of the Jefferson Memorial Oct. 17, 1942. Washington's rainfall was 6.27 inches, but 10 to 15 inches of rain fell to the west of DC.
- During the January 1996 flood at Great Falls, the Potomac River rose 85 feet in just 48 hours. This was the fifth largest flood in 100 years.
- A basement theater of the National Archives building in Washington was among the many local sites flooded after a week of continuous rain in 2006. Down the street, the cafeteria flooded at the National Museum of American History. Dorothy's ruby slippers, Julia Child's kitchen and the other artifacts were all safe, but still, who wants to risk it?
- A University of Maryland study finds that if a Superstorm Sandy were to hit DC, property damage alone would top $24 billion.
Why Is Flood Insurance Important?
Floods are the top natural disasters in the Washington, DC area. With climatologists warning of rising sea levels, floods are becoming more and more commonplace among coastal areas.
Average insurance claims for flood damage have reached as high as $40,000 per incident in recent years. The real kicker? Your homeowners insurance policy probably does not protect you from flood damage. Unless you have an "extra" 30 or 40 grand lying around to cover your losses, only a comprehensive flood insurance policy can protect you and your home from unaffordable repairs.
What Is the National Flood Insurance Program?
In 1968, Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Program to provide flood insurance policies to homeowners, business owners and renters in communities that participate in the program. The NFIP, operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, works with more than 90 private insurance carriers to provide flood insurance to cover damage that results from flash floods, hurricanes, winter storms or heavy rains.
One great thing about this partnership is that the premiums do not change from company to company. Instead, FEMA sets them based on factors like the type of construction of the home, the land the house is on, the location of the home within the flood plain and other factors.
In 2012, Congress passed the Flood Insurance Reform Act, which calls on FEMA to make a number of changes to the way the NFIP operates. Key provisions of the legislation will require the NFIP to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map updates impact policyholders. The changes will mean premium rate increases for some, but not all, policyholders over time.
Are There Options for Flood Insurance?
You can choose from a few types of flood coverage to protect your Washington, DC home or business:
- General Property Policy: This coverage can protect five or more family residential buildings and non-residential buildings.
- Residential Condominium Building Association Policy: This option insures condominiums and townhomes.
- Standard Flood Insurance Policy (Dwelling): This is the most common form of coverage, used to insure up to four family residential buildings and single-family dwelling units in a condo/townhouse building.
For standard dwelling coverage, you have two options:
- Building property coverage - up to $250,000
- Personal property coverage - up to $100,000
The NFIP strongly recommends that homeowners purchase both coverage options. If you are still paying a mortgage on your home, your lender may require you to carry certain types of flood insurance as Washington DC is located within a flood zone.
What Are the Reimbursement Options for a Flooding Event?
You have two options to choose from when it comes to reimbursement for damage caused by floods.
A flood insurance policy won't ever pay out any more than the exact amount of the policy. For example, if your policy is limited to $250,000, your insurer will reimburse you up to $250,000 for structural damage. As the value of your home changes throughout the years, it's a wise decision to review your policy's limits.
You can choose to buy building property flood insurance that uses either replacement cost or actual cash value. You can only buy personal property flood insurance at ACV coverage amounts.
- Actual cash value: This type of reimbursement takes depreciation into account. If a flood destroys your 10-year-old dishwasher, your insurer will only reimburse the cost of a 10-year-old dishwasher.
- Replacement cost value: This type of reimbursement ignores depreciation. Your insurer will replace your home at the cost to build it new, not at its original cost.
What Do Flood Insurance Quotes Look Like?
As mentioned above, premium rates for NFIP flood insurance are set and cannot vary from insurance provider to insurance provider. It is possible to find flood insurance protection quotes in the Washington, DC area for as little as $60 for contents coverage only. If you have more personal property to insure, contents coverage could be higher but generally no more than $300 annually.
For contents and building flood insurance protection, you can expect quotes to vary anywhere from $130 for smaller homes to $460 for larger homes in the Washington, DC area with more contents to cover.
Where Can You Find Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance is complex. You want to be sure the coverage you choose and the limits you set will adequately protect your Washington, DC home or business from the next great flood. Knowledgeable independent insurance agents of the Trusted Choice® network are always here to help answer any questions you may have, suggest coverage options and even assist you in filing a claim on your flood insurance.
Contact a Trusted Choice agent near you to find out how you can protect your home or business with flood insurance.