Spring showers in Valley renew fears of flooding

Flood insurance Facts and tips

Before purchasing flood insurance, take an inventory of all items in your home.

Even though flood insurance is a federal program, private insurance companies sell the policies. Contact your insurance agent or company to inquire about it.

Flood insurance is available to protect homes, condominiums, apartments and nonresidential buildings, including commercial structures and their contents.

When purchasing a home, determine whether the home is located in a special flood-hazard area and whether it is mandatory to purchase flood insurance.

What IT covers

There are two types of flood insurance: building coverage and contents coverage. Below is a summary of what both types cover. It is recommended homeowners purchase both. Renters should purchase only contents coverage; landlords are responsible for insuring the building.

Building coverage includes the building and foundation, electrical and plumbing systems, furnaces, water heaters, central air equipment, refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers and other built-in appliances and carpeting permanently installed over flooring.

Contents coverage includes clothing, furniture, electronic equipment, curtains, portable and window air conditioners, portable microwaves and dishwashers, washers and dryers and carpeting not included in property coverage.

Source: FloodSmart.gov, Ohio Department of Insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program

By Kristen Russo



April showers can bring May flowers — and a lot of flooding headaches.

The rainy season is particularly dicey for owners of homes built in or near special flood-hazard areas.

Special flood-hazard areas are designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as areas with a 1-percent probability of having water over the surface of the land.

Christopher Thoms, state coordinator for the National Flood Insurance Program, said these areas are often near lakes, rivers or streams, but they don’t necessarily have to be. Areas with poor drainage can also be considered a flood hazard.

“Add enough water, and virtually any area can be a flood plain,” Thoms said.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources is the state liaison for the National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered by FEMA.

Thoms said if a home is built in a flood-hazard area, it runs a 26 percent to 28 percent chance of flooding during the life of a 30-year mortgage.

He also said one out of four flood-insurance claims comes from people living in areas that are not designated flood plains.

“To put it in perspective, most houses run a 9-percent risk of a fire,” Thoms said.

Homeowners, renters and business owners can find the flood-risk profile for their specific property on the NFIP’s website, FloodSmart.gov.

Purchasing flood insurance is mandatory for homeowners who have a federally backed mortgage and live in a special flood-hazard area, Thoms said. For everyone else, it’s optional.

Thoms said mortgage lenders can require homeowners to purchase flood insurance even when it’s not required by law.

It takes 30 days for a flood-insurance policy to go into effect. If a flood occurs before that, the property will not be covered unless the insurance was obtained at the same time as a home purchase or a mortgage refinance, said Jeff Hinesly, national flood program manager for Farmers Insurance.

Though landlords are responsible for insuring the structure of a home, renters also can purchase flood insurance to protect their personal items, Hinesly said.

Hinesly said renters living in communities that participate in the NFIP but whose homes are not in a special flood-hazard area can purchase flood-insurance policies ranging from $49 to $238 per year.

Homeowners with the same conditions can purchase the policies ranging from $129 to $405 per year, Hinesly said.

For homeowners living in a high-risk area, Hinesly said flood-insurance rates range from about $800 per year to several thousand dollars per year.

Because the NFIP is a federal program, Hinesly said it is underwritten by the government, and rates can’t change from provider to provider.

As with any type of insurance, people who are thinking about purchasing flood insurance should take an inventory of all items in the home, said Jarrett Dunbar, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Insurance.

They should also have a discussion with their insurance provider to determine their needs, Dunbar said.

The NFIP works with 90 private insurance companies, including Allstate, Farmers Insurance, Nationwide, Fidelity and Liberty Mutual.

Mary Bonelli, spokeswoman for the Ohio Insurance Institute, said insurance companies that participate in the NFIP cannot sell policies to people living in communities that do not participate.

With the exception of Beloit, West Farmington and Yankee Lake, all communities in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties participate in the NFIP, according to the FEMA website.

A few private insurance companies, such as Fireman’s Fund, also offer policies for residents in these areas.

Janet Ruiz, spokeswoman for Fireman’s Fund, said the company’s flood-insurance coverage is limited to customers living in low-to-medium flood-risk areas who also have a Fireman’s Fund homeowners insurance policy.

She declined to give insurance rates.

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