Following several weeks of storms and heavy flooding in Washington State, the state Insurance Commissioner released a list of tips for homeowners dealing with flood losses under their insurance policies. Flood insurance is challenging, so the Insurance Commissioner’s advice should be helpful to policyholders affected by the flooding.
The upshot is:
- Most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
- Flood insurance is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program.
- NFIP policies come in two types. The first type of policy covers flood damage to the building, such as the foundation, electrical wiring, flooring, etc.
- The second type of NFIP policy covers flood damage to personal property like appliances, electronics, and other personal belongings.
- Homeowner’s affected by flooding who don’t have flood insurance coverage may be eligible for federal emergency grants or loans.
California recently announced new wildfire insurance rules that might be a glimpse into the future for Washington State homeowners having trouble getting insurance coverage in wildfire-prone parts of Washington. California’s new rules help people who can no longer get homeowner’s insurance coverage due to increased wildfire risk. The new rules expand a California state-run program acting as the insurer of last resort for homeowners living in areas at high risk of wildfires.
Like Washington and Oregon, California has seen significant damage from large wildfires in recent years. This has caused many insurance companies to cancel homeowner’s insurance policies for homes in high-risk areas. Even where coverage remains available, premiums have increased significantly. Many California homeowners have complained about being abruptly dropped by their homeowner’s carriers, or facing exorbitant price increases. In 2017 and 2018, California wildfires caused over 124,000 claims and about $26 billion in losses. Like other mass-disaster claims, wildfire insurance claims are often difficult due to the scope of the losses and the size of the claims.
California’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) plan collects contributions from California insurance companies to support a fire loss coverage fund. Starting in April, FAIR will cover up to $3 million in damages, and will eventually be expanded to cover other non-fire liabilities, such as water damage or personal liability, typically covered by traditional homeowners insurance. The goal is that homeowners covered by FAIR should have adequate coverage without having to buy additional insurance.
The move was, predictably, applauded by consumer advocates but criticized by the insurance industry, which said the changes could hurt consumer choice.