A year after Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters covered an area the size of New Jersey, the number of federal flood insurance policies increased 29 percent in the counties that suffered Harvey’s wrath.
Then we began to see some declines in coverage. Please don’t let our memories be that short. It’s a pattern that plays out after most major floods. There’s a surge in people buying flood coverage while the stories are fresh on our minds – horrific water damage, families forced to move out of uninhabitable homes, or homeowners taking out repair loans the size of a second mortgage.
History also tells us that a spike in flood coverage doesn’t last long. As the stories fade from the front page, people start letting those policies lapse. I want to see Texas change that trend.
Most home and renters’ policies don’t cover flooding. For homeowners in areas at highest risk of flooding, a flood policy is usually a requirement to get a mortgage. But don’t assume that you don’t need flood insurance even if it’s not required for your home. A Houston Chronicle analysis found that almost three-quarters of the homes flooded by Harvey were outside federally designated high-risk areas.
You also can’t rely solely on historical data. Even if your home has never flooded, the risk can change over time. Development, loss of grasslands, and even your neighbor’s new privacy fence could increase the flood risk for your home. If you don’t live on top of a hill or have a house on stilts, your safest bet is to get flood insurance.
Most homeowners can buy a federal flood policy for less than $500 a year for property outside of high-risk flood zones. Visit FEMA’s FloodSmart.gov website for more information and the rate chart. Some private insurers also offer flood coverage. Renters will find contents-only policies that cover their belongings at an even lower cost.
There are 4.8 million homeowners policies in Texas, but fewer than 750,000 federal flood policies. That means less than 16 percent of homeowners are covered for flood damage in a state with 367 miles of coastline and “Flash Flood Alley.”
Hurricane season is here, and most flood policies have a 30-day waiting period. If you don’t have flood insurance, the time is now. We all read the stories of flood victims struggling to recover financially after Harvey. Let’s learn from them.