Having suffered losses from Hurricane Harvey, I feel that I know more about floods and flood insurance than I ever wanted to. Homes that were not in flood zones flooded across the city, forever changing our views on the need for flood insurance. As hurricane season approaches again (June 1-November 30), I hope every homeowner in Houston and surrounding cities has purchased flood insurance by now. By the time a hurricane is in the gulf, it is too late! The National Flood Insurance Program has a 30 day waiting period for flood insurance to be effective unless you are either just purchasing a home or refinancing one. It is highly advisable to purchase flood insurance at the time of closing on your new or refinanced home to avoid the waiting period.
Over eight years ago, a representative with Harris County Flood District explained the flood risk in Houston in very clear terms, “Houston is a flood zone,” she said. “It all depends on where the rain falls. Houston is flat and the water has nowhere to go. If you put a penny under a pool table, that is our slope.” I often hear the statement, “If I didn’t flood after Allison (and now Harvey), there is no way I will flood.” Over 200,000 homes were impacted by flood waters following Harvey, and it could be your home next time. Why take a risk?
The other thing we learned after Harvey is that NFIP insurance has a maximum payout of $250,000 for the dwelling and $100,000 for the contents. Before Harvey, I could not fathom $250,000 of damage to a home, but many of the homes in the Energy Corridor exceeded this amount of damage not only because of the high water levels, but also because the water sat in our homes for over 2 weeks! In the Villages, where homes are valued at $1 million plus, $250,000 is a drop in the bucket to restore those homes. I have learned that it is possible to purchase supplemental insurance to cover any loss above $250,000 through a private insurance, so if you want to be fully insured, call your insurance today, but be warned that if it is determined that your loss does not exceed $225,000, the supplemental will not pay anything!
The biggest lesson we learned is that every homeowner, renter, and business owner in Houston metro should have flood insurance! While less than 15% of homeowners had flood insurance, there were probably less than 5% of renters that had a flood rider on their renters insurance. Who knew that you needed a flood rider on a renter’s policy? Flood waters destroyed the entire contents of the lower floor of apartments and homes across the city, and renters learned that they were not insured. Some people lost everything they owned overnight, yet they were not in a flood zone, so their insurance agents did not advise or require a flood rider. Lesson learned-even if you rent, ask for flood insurance.
9 months in the aftermath of Harvey, the remnants of the destruction can still be seen around Houston as some homeowners and businesses are struggling to restore homes and businesses. If you are not in a 100 year flood plain, flood insurance through NFIP is only $450 a year, which is equivalent to $37.50 a month. Even if you didn’t flood this time and you think the risk is low, why take the risk? The next heavy rain fall could be in your neighborhood or the drainage in your street could back up and water could enter your home. Rising water from any source that enters your home is not covered under your standard insurance policy. Please call your insurance company today. 2″ of water in a home can cause $30,000 of damage. Don’t take that risk!