If you have flood insurance in South Florida, there is a good chance that your coverage is provided under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you purchased your home prior to 2014 and have not changed your coverage, you have an NFIP flood insurance policy. A change in the law four years ago allowed Florida homeowners to seek coverage from private carriers; however, many mortgage lenders still prefer (and recommend) NFIP coverage.
The NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). FEMA provides information about the NFIP for homeowners on its website, including a copy of the “Dwelling Form Standard Flood Insurance Policy.” This is the policy form that provides coverage for single-family residences, townhomes and condominiums. While you don’t need to know your flood insurance policy word-for-word, if you need to file a claim, it is a good idea to have at least a basic understanding of your rights and obligations.
4 Key Provisions of the NFIP Dwelling Form Standard Flood Insurance Policy
1. FEMA’s Obligation to Pay
The first section of the standard NFIP policy sets out FEMA’s and the policyholder’s basic obligations. It states:
“We will pay you for direct physical loss by or from flood to your insured property if you: 1. Have paid the correct premium; 2. Comply with all terms and conditions of this policy; and 3. Have furnished accurate information and statements.”
While this is a simple statement, it has a variety of important implications. Most notably, FEMA is not required to pay for the damage to your home unless (i) it is flood-related, and (ii) you have met your obligations as a policyholder. But, if you meet these two basic requirements, then FEMA’s obligation to pay is unconditional.
2. Direct Physical Loss
The standard NFIP policy covers “direct physical loss.” Unfortunately, the policy’s definition of this term isn’t much help, as it simply states, “[l]oss or damage to insurance property, directly caused by a flood.” However, the definition also makes clear that there must be “evidence of physical changes to the property.” If you cannot prove that the flood caused damage to your home, then you may not be able to obtain coverage. Learn how to prepare in advance for a flood insurance claim.
When does your flood insurance policy apply instead of your homeowners’ insurance policy? The standard NFIP policy defines a flood as “partial or complete inundation” resulting from any of the following:
- “Overflow of inland or tidal waters,
- “Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, [or]
This means that storm surge is covered under your flood insurance policy, but damage from rain and wind is not.
4. Policy Exclusions
Sections IV and V of the standard NFIP policy outline the policy’s exclusions (beginning on page 11). This includes 16 types of personal property and six broad categories of other non-covered losses. Some examples include:
- Personal property stored outside;
- Boathouses and other open structures;
- Certain recreational and self-propelled vehicles;
- Additional living expenses incurred during the rebuilding process; and,
- Water and mold damage due to “[f]ailure, stoppage, or breakage of water or sewer lines, drains, pumps, fixtures, or equipment.”
Speak With an Attorney About Your NFIP Flood Insurance Claim
If your home was damaged in a hurricane or other storm, our property damage attorneys are available to assist with your homeowners’ insurance and NFIP flood insurance claims. To request an initial consultation, please call our Fort Lauderdale law offices at (954) 767-6333 or send us a message online today.