What’s a Flood?


Don’t just assume that a flood is not covered by your regular homeowner’s policy. The insurance industry uses the term “flood” very specifically as water that has crossed the ground and entered the house uninvited. This is the type of flood that needs to be covered by flood insurance from the federal government – the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

To regular people, a “flood” is just a lot of water where it’s not supposed to be. Several years ago, a contractor broke a pipe in my apartment. To me, six inches of water on my floor looked exactly like a flood. To the insurance company, it was called a “pipe burst” and it was covered by my policy. A short time before that, water came in across the ground and through my windows, which were at grade level. That was a “flood” and the damage it caused was not covered.

Here are some more examples of the differences between what type of water damage is covered by your regular homeowner’s policy and what needs a special flood policy from NFIP.

Covered by the homeowner’s policy

  • If your home or building is damaged from the outside by a covered peril (wind, fire, explosion, etc.) and rain gets into the house because of that damage – through a hole in the roof for example – that is a covered loss on the regular homeowner’s policy.

  • If the water originates inside the house like from burst pipes, plumbing overflows, dishwasher/washing machine malfunctions, or kids putting in too much detergent – all covered.

Covered by the National Flood Insurance Program

  • If a storm overflows a body of water near you and water comes over the ground and into your home, that’s an NFIP claim.
  • If there’s a heavy rain and water seeps into your house from the yard through the foundation, that’s an NFIP claim.


Rule of thumb: as soon as water touches the ground outside and then comes into the house, it’s NFIP.

If you’re unsure, call us to find out.

For more information on the NFIP, click here.

Why are hurricane claims more complicated than others?

Hurricanes usually include windstorm and flooding damage. This complicates things because windstorm losses are paid by private insurers while flooding is covered by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you live near the coast or on a floodplain, your mortgagee usually requires you to have flood insurance. You can buy flood insurance even if you’re not on a floodplain, but because it’s not required, most people opt out. Turns out that many of the people affected by Hurricane Harvey flooding do not have flood insurance.
We can look back on Hurricane Katrina for hints to how these situations play out. After Katrina, private insurance company adjusters were telling homeowners that their damage was caused by flooding, not by wind, and therefore not covered. Most people didn’t even realize they were not covered for floods.
What will hurricane flooding victims do? The feds do offer some assistance, mostly in the form of low-interest loans. This assistance needs to be approved by congress on a case-by-case basis.
Should we all just get flood insurance? Maybe flood insurance isn’t such a bad idea, even if you’re not on a floodplain. With climate change, storms will create more water, like the billions of gallons Harvey dumped on Texas. I just called my agent to find out about it for my 1,200 square foot house, which is not on a floodplain. For $250,000 coverage, which is the maximum, the cost is about $499 per year – it all depends on your level of risk and mine is low. The cost to insure a house on a floodplain could cost $800 or more. There’s a 30-day grace period so don’t wait till they announce a hurricane to get it.
A public adjuster can help guide you after a claim. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s wind and what’s flood (the uncovered kind), so it’s good to have an expert on your side. And having just suffered the trauma of a hurricane, it’s pretty hard to deal with an insurance company, so let us help.
Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc.