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Like quakes, flooding not covered in typical home policy

Published July 21, 2012 6:33 pm

Resources at hand to help gauge your risk, guide insurance choices.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Flooding probably isn't something many Utahns worry about during a hot, dry summer that has seen more than a dozen wildfires.

But as residents of St. George recently discovered, flooding can happen just about anywhere and at any time. Heavy rain in mid-July led to an estimated 100 homes being inundated in the southern Utah city.

And what many people don't realize is that flooding is one of two disasters— the other being earthquakes — that aren't covered by traditional homeowner's insurance policies.

Although fire damage is covered by basic homeowner's policies, earthquake and flooding coverage must be purchased separately. If your home is in an area that's at high risk for floods, your mortgage lender may even require that you purchase the coverage.

Others in areas that aren't considered high risk are left to make their own decisions, but it's worth considering. In Utah, as with other Western states, wildfires have in recent years set the stage for mudslides and flash flooding.

Although some areas are more prone to flooding than others, high water can occur anywhere. In St. George, a violent storm caused so much rain in such a short time that waterways and drains couldn't handle all of the excess water. In other instances, baked earth and a lack of vegetation can lead to flooding when it rains.

Even those who realize the limitations of homeowner's policies may be under the common misconception that if your home floods, you will get federal disaster assistance. Even if you do qualify, it's more likely to be in the form of a loan instead of an actual reimbursement for damage to your property, such as would be the case with an insurance policy.

Deciding whether to purchase flood coverage can be difficult because the annual cost can be several hundred dollars or more. And it's hard to pinpoint your actual risk. Additionally, most of us have not seen firsthand the devastation caused by either flooding or earthquakes.

The good news, though, is that gauging your risk of flooding may actually be easier than figuring out whether your home will be damaged or demolished by an earthquake.

The federal government has a nifty tool to help homeowners with their decision at the National Flood Insurance Programs website, Floodsmart.gov (click on the words "Your One-Step Flood Risk Profile"). The tool also offers a list of private-sector insurers who can provide an idea of what it would cost to insure your home. Homeowners also may call the NFIP at 1-800-427-2419 for more information.

Whether you have only traditional homeowner's insurance coverage or have purchased additional coverage for earthquakes or floods, it's always a good idea to have a record of your possessions.

The Utah Department of Insurance provides a printable home inventory form at Insurance.utah.gov/news/Disaster.html. You also can download a free home inventory app to your computer, iPad or iPhone.

The app allows you to photograph images of your possessions and include descriptions and other identifying information.

Lesley Mitchell writes One Cheap Chick in daily blog form at blogs.sltrib.com/cheap.

lesley@sltrib.com Twitter: @cheapchick Facebook: Facebook.com/OneCheapChick —

Flood insurance information

Go to the National Flood Insurance Programs website, Floodsmart.gov (click on the words "Your One-Step Flood Risk Profile") or call 1-800-427-2419.

The Utah Department of Insurance provides a printable home inventory form at Insurance.utah.gov/news/Disaster.html. You also can download a free home inventory app to your computer, iPad or iPhone.