KSL Investigates: Why Utahns Should Consider Flood Insurance
Aug 28, 2020, 7:30 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 11:50 pm
ST. GEORGE, Utah — Scores of people in St. George are still cleaning up in the wake of Sunday night’s flash flooding where three sinkholes opened and over a dozen homes suffered flood damage. However, most home insurance policies don’t cover flood damage – that’s covered by flood insurance.
Only 3% of Utahns have flood insurance, even though floods can strike anywhere it rains — not just in designated flood plains.
“If you’ve lived outside of Utah, you likely know most homes don’t have basements,” said Todd Kiser, commissioner for Utah’s Department of Insurance. “We’re just a basement community, so when floods happen and they hit our homes, it’s usually pretty costly.”
Kiser says any homeowner — business owner or renter — can buy flood insurance.
Because it’s typically expensive for private insurance carriers to offer, most policies will be insured through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Right now, the typical flood policy premium in Utah runs $638 dollars annually, according to a recent study by consumer finance website, ValuePenguin.
But the actual cost hinges on several factors including a home’s value, its location, flood risk level and height off the ground – among others. Not that any of those things mean anything to flood waters.
“There are floodplain maps and in some of those areas, homes and businesses are required to have flood insurance because of loans,” said Kiser. “But you just can’t predict where water is going to go.”
Homeowners have two options for flood insurance coverage, and they can buy both.
The first, building coverage, covers an actual home up to $250,000. The coverage includes stuff like the foundation, garage, heating and cooling units, built-in appliances, electrical, plumbing, permanent carpeting and drywall.
The second, contents coverage, covers personal property up to $100,000. That wheelhouse includes clothes, curtains, furniture, personal electronics, microwaves as well as washers and dryers.
But that doesn’t mean everything will be covered.
“So, that’s one thing that policyholders need to understand — what kind of coverage they have. On the national flood policy, there are limitations on basements and basement coverage,” explained Kiser. “There just are the limitations, so you need to know the coverage that you’re buying and discuss it with your agent.”
Those limitations? Well, you’ll get nothing for carpeting, tiles, paneling, some drywall and nearly anything you can pick up and carry if it is below ground level.
Plus, there is a waiting period. You won’t be covered if you buy flood insurance the day it starts raining.
“So, if you go and say, ‘Oh, I can see dark clouds in the distance, maybe I need to go buy insurance,’ – it’s not available, you’re too late. There’s usually a 30-day waiting period,” said Kiser.
There are exceptions.
If flooding starts on federal land scorched by a wildfire this summer, the waiting period for a National Flood Insurance Program policy can be waived. You’ll have up to 60 days of the wildfire’s official containment date to buy a policy and be covered.