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Floods can cause expensive damage to your home and force you to temporarily relocate until repairs are made. When you have flood insurance, the coverage reimburses you if a flood damages your home or belongings.
However, like other types of insurance policies, flood insurance typically comes with a waiting period. If you buy insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the waiting period is typically 30 days (with some exceptions). If you purchase private insurance, the waiting period can vary, and is generally between 14 and 30 days.
Keep reading for more insight into how flood insurance waiting periods work:
- Purpose of the flood insurance waiting period
- How long is the flood insurance waiting period?
- NFIP waiting period exceptions
- Should you choose private flood insurance?
Purpose of the flood insurance waiting period
A flood insurance waiting period is the time period between when you purchase your insurance policy and when coverage begins. Understandably, both private insurance carriers and the federal government (who offer select insurance policies through federal programs) often require waiting periods to stop people from only buying insurance coverage just before or after a disaster strikes.
Learn More: Home Insurance Exclusions: What’s Not Covered?
How long is the flood insurance waiting period?
There’s generally a 30-day waiting period between when you buy a flood insurance policy and when you can actually use the coverage. But this timeline can vary depending on whether you buy an NFIP or private flood insurance policy, and there are some exceptions.
Private flood insurance policy
While some private insurance carriers have 30-day waiting periods, often they have shorter waiting periods that start at or around 14 days. However, there are times when a waiting period isn’t required at all, like when you’re buying a home and closing on it before the waiting period ends.
National Flood Insurance Program policy
Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically don’t cover flood damage. The federal government provides support to ensure that you can get the coverage you need through the NFIP. Private insurers sell these policies but FEMA underwrites them. Typically, they come with a 30-day waiting period.
NFIP waiting period exceptions
In some scenarios, the 30-day NFIP waiting period doesn’t apply. Let’s take a closer look at those exceptions.
Your home is located on burned federal property
If flooding on burned federal land affects your home after a wildfire, the waiting period will be waived at the time of your claim as long as you bought your flood insurance policy within 60 days of the wildfire-containment date. An insurance adjuster will determine if the waiting period waiver applies.
You purchase a new policy based on a mortgage or loan
Usually, if a home is in a high-risk flood area, your mortgage lender will require you to buy flood insurance. If you need to buy flood insurance while you’re either making, increasing, extending, or renewing your mortgage, then you won’t have to worry about a waiting period. This makes it possible to secure the required insurance coverage in time to close on your home loan.
Check Out: Does Home Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?
You change your coverage when you renew your policy
Your flood insurance policy doesn’t automatically roll over year to year. You must renew it annually. If you increase or otherwise change your coverage when you renew your policy, the NFIP typically waives the waiting period.
Good to know: With NFIP flood insurance, your policy will expire at 12:01am on the last day of the effective term. However, there’s a grace period for coverage, and you’ll remain covered for 30 days past that expiration. If you make a claim during that period, it’ll only be honored if you pay the full renewal premium before the grace period ends.
FEMA revises their flood hazard zones periodically, so if there’s a change and FEMA designates your home as being in a high-risk flood area, your waiting period goes from 30 days to one day. This applies as long as you purchase flood insurance within the 13-month period following a flood map revision.
Should you choose private flood insurance?
In some cases, you may be able to add flood coverage to your existing homeowners insurance policy as an endorsement or rider, but not all insurers have this option. Private flood insurance can be hard to come by — especially in areas prone to flooding — which is why the NFIP exists. That way, homeowners can get the coverage they need to protect themselves in the event of a flood.
On the plus side, private insurance carriers may have shorter waiting periods ( 14 days instead of 30). Private flood insurance may also have higher limits than NFIP policies.
If you want to buy a private flood insurance policy, you can contact your homeowners insurance carrier to find out if it offers flood insurance. If you’re struggling to find a flood insurance provider, you can visit the NFIP website to find one. Remember, you want to have a policy in place well before a flood happens, so don’t wait until you’re at a high risk of flooding to buy your flood coverage.
Learn More: How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?