Flood insurance for renters

On the Today Show this morning Matt Lauer interviewed a woman with 9 kids about their flood experience in Iowa. They were renting a home that is now flooded up to the roof.

Matt asked what she had lost and she said “everything” and he said something like “to make matters worse you didn’t have flood insurance.” She said no, she had tried to get some because they are in a flood plain, but they were told that they couldn’t get it because they were renting.

This, dear readers, is simply not true. I hope her insurance agent went into hiding because my guess is the good television viewers of America are going to want to string this person up by his or her thumbs.

Renters CAN get flood insurance. I know, because I’m a renter. And an insurance agent.

Here is some information I hope will be helpful:

1. If I rent, can I get flood insurance coverage for my contents? Yes. The National Flood Insurance Program offers contents coverage up to $100,000 for both homeowners AND renters. Additional coverage over $100,000 may be purchased through an excess flood policy. Contact your homeowners insurance agent for more information.

2. If I rent, can I get flood coverage on the house I live in? No, but your landlord can and should. Your financial interest as a renter is only in your contents, not in the home itself. If your lease requires you to maintain coverage on the structure, you should contact your homeowners insurance agent with a copy of your lease.

3. My agent says I need an elevation certificate. What is that? An Elevation Certificate is a detailed survey of a structure’s elevation to see if it is above or below the base flood elevation. If you rent, you should get a copy of this from your landlord.

4. I’m not in a flood zone, so I can’t get flood insurance, right? Wrong. You can get flood insurance, even if you aren’t in a high hazard area. If you are in a low hazard, or preferred risk, area, you can get flood insurance quite inexpensively.

5. So what is a high hazard zone, anyway? A high hazard zone is one designated by FEMA as beginning with A or V. So if your zone is AE, then you’re in a high hazard flood zone. Low hazard or “preferred risk” zones are usually designated B, C and X. Contact your agent to find out what your flood zone is.

6. We’re having a big storm right now, and the creek near my house is getting high. Where can I get flood insurance quickly? You can’t get flood insurance quickly. The NFIP will not bind coverage in area where flood conditions are currently occurring. In fact, the typical flood insurance policy has a 30 day waiting period once coverage is accepted before it is in force. If you are involved in a bank closing, that waiting period can be waived. The best time to buy flood insurance is either 30 days before the flood rains come, or now.

Flood insurance is really pretty easy to get, and not as expensive as you might think. If your insurance agent isn’t offering it to you, ASK for it.

For more information about flood insurance, go here: The National Flood Insurance Program.