Does Flood Insurance Have a Waiting Period?
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A hurricane is building in the Atlantic — and according to the latest forecast, it’s headed straight for your state. Is it too late to get flood insurance?
Most likely, the answer is yes. There’s usually a waiting period of 10 to 30 days between when you buy a flood insurance policy and when the coverage takes effect, depending on where you get your coverage. However, there are a few situations in which you can get immediate flood insurance.
Federal flood insurance waiting period
When you buy a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program, coverage generally starts 30 days from the purchase date. If flooding occurs during the blackout period, your policy won’t pay to fix damage to your home or belongings.
However, the following exceptions apply to the 30-day NFIP waiting period, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
There’s no waiting period if you buy flood insurance in conjunction with a mortgage loan. This rule applies to getting a new mortgage or to increasing, extending or renewing your loan. (Mortgage lenders generally require flood insurance for homeowners who live in high-risk flood zones.)
Renewing existing flood insurance
If you already have flood insurance and decide to update your coverage at renewal time, the new limits will take effect once your old policy expires, with no waiting period.
» MORE: What does flood insurance cost?
If your house wasn’t in one of FEMA’s Special Flood Hazard Areas when you first moved in, you probably didn’t buy flood insurance. But what if FEMA redoes its maps and your home is now in a high-risk zone? You can get a policy with only a one-day waiting period as long as you buy within 13 months of the remapping.
Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center to find out whether your home is in a high-risk flood zone.
A Special Flood Hazard Area is an area with at least a 1% chance of flooding in any given year, as estimated by FEMA.
After a wildfire, the risk of flooding goes up because burnt vegetation leaves the ground unable to absorb rainfall. If your home is affected by flooding on burned federal land and you buy an NFIP policy within 60 days of the date the fire was contained, there may be no waiting period for coverage.
Private flood insurance waiting period
Depending on the company, your waiting period might be shorter — around 10 to 15 days — if you buy private flood insurance. But as with the NFIP, there may be some exceptions. For instance, if you buy a policy as part of the mortgage closing process, there may be no waiting period.
You may also be able to skip the waiting period if you’re getting private flood insurance when your NFIP policy is set to renew.
Private flood insurance providers don't serve all states or communities, so ask an independent insurance agent about options in your area.
Last-minute flood insurance for your car
Flood insurance doesn’t extend to your vehicle. If your car suffers flood damage, comprehensive car insurance pays for repairs, minus your deductible. Say you have a $250 deductible and your car needs $1,000 worth of flood repairs. Your insurance company will pay $750, and you’ll be responsible for the rest.
Note that you may not have comprehensive coverage on your policy, as states don’t legally require it. So if you have only the state-mandated minimum insurance on your car, you don’t have coverage for flood damage. However, if you have a car loan, your lender probably required you to get comprehensive coverage when you bought the vehicle.
Not sure what coverage you have? Check the declarations page of your auto policy or call your insurer.
Car insurance companies generally won’t sell new coverage if your area is under a storm watch. If that hasn’t happened yet, ask your insurer about adding comprehensive coverage to your policy. Provided you're able to get the coverage, there won't be a waiting period.