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can you afford to be without flood insurance?

It could pay you to buy flood insurance, and here's evidence. "Flooding is far and away the most common natural disaster type in the country, and flood is not covered by your typical homeowners insurance policy," explains Mark Stevens, public affairs officer for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Flood insurance could be perceived as a solid hedge against the prospect of you suffering a huge financial setback stemming from flood-caused damage to your property. NFIP coverage can protect your house, business and possessions.

Something else to consider: If someone is in a high-risk flood zone, then a federally-regulated lender would require a would-be borrower to buy flood insurance in order to qualify for a mortgage loan, according to Stevens. How much coverage would be needed to satisfy a lender? The amount "would at least have to cover the amount of the loan," answered Stevens, speaking by phone from Washington, D.C.

A homeowner should buy flood insurance if he or she resides "in a known flood plain with no failsafe controls, like a dam," contends Pete Gorman, vice president and regional manager of the Alliance of American Insurers, based in Illinois. "It's a good idea to protect the biggest investment that most people would ever own," Gorman asserts.

Flood policies pay off even if the President doesn't declare your area to be a federal disaster area. Sure, you could receive federal aid if the President declares your area a Federal disaster area, but the nation's Chief Executive rarely issues such a declaration. Besides, you have to repay if you receive a federal loan for home repairs related to a natural disaster. With that in mind, ask yourself: Is going without flood insurance worth the financial risk?

Be aware that not every home can qualify for flood coverage. For instance, you might not be able to obtain flood insurance if your beach front or ocean-side property sits in an area prone to destructive hurricanes or thunderstorms.

Don't wait until you hear it raining on your roof before you buy flood insurance. You can purchase flood coverage anytime, but the policy doesn't take effect for 30 days.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that more than 19,000 communities have agreed to tighter zoning and building measures to control floods. Residents of these communities can buy flood coverage through NFIP, which FEMA oversees. NFIP has 4.4 million flood policies in-force nationwide.

Some NFIP underwriting particulars: Limits range to $250,000 for the residential structure and up to $100,000 for contents. On a nonresidential (commercial) structure such as grocery store, you can arrange as much as $500,000 for structure protection and $500,000 in contents coverage. Renters can purchase contents coverage of up to $100,000 in limits.

Premiums "vary widely," depending on the individual risk, said Stevens. In determining price, Stevens explained, flood insurance underwriters consider several factors including a particular property's elevation, proximity to bodies of water, and whether the dwelling has a basement. The average flood insurance policy premium costs more than $300 per year. Deductible sizes vary (e.g. $500, $1,000, $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000).

Upwards of 200 private-sector insurance companies write and service flood insurance policies for the federal government, which funds the undertaking through flood insurance premiums paid by consumers. You can obtain flood coverage through a nearby insurance agent or phone NFIP's toll-free number at 1-888-FLOOD29. Stevens cites another phone number, 800-427-4661, this one to obtain answers to NFIP questions or get referrals to nearby insurance agents who could sell flood policies.





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