Renters should buy flood insurance so that they won’t have to pay out of pocket if there is a flood.
While renters insurance will protect your personal possessions from a variety of water damage, such as broken pipes or an overflowing toilet, it will not cover flood or backed-up sewer damage. In order to fully protect your personal possessions, you will need a separate flood insurance policy.
Flood insurance is never a required coverage for renters because it only protects your personal possessions. The apartment or rental home structure itself would be protected by the landlord’s flood policy. However, if you don’t have flood insurance, the cost to replace all of your possessions will fall on you.
Renters can buy flood insurance from both the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from private insurers. Keep reading our flood insurance for renters guide to learn everything you need to know about flood insurance.
Can renters get flood insurance?
Yes, renters can purchase a flood insurance policy from either the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or from a private insurer. Just like homeowners insurance, a standard renters insurance policy excludes damage done by flooding, so unless renters buy a flood insurance policy they are not covered for flood damage.
A renters flood insurance policy covers the contents of your rental — the rental owner buys coverage for the structure of the rental unit. A typical flood insurance policy for renters covers items such as:
- Electronics such as computers, stereos and tablets
- Valuables such as artwork, jewelry, wine collections and other high-end goods
- Kitchen items
- Mini fridges
- Portable microwaves and dishwashers
- Window air conditioners
- Portable clothes washers and dryers
If your belongings are damaged by a flood, you can make a claim for your personal possessions up to your coverage limits. NFIP policies cap personal property coverage at $100,000 but private insurer policies typically offer higher coverage limits.
Most flood insurance policies do not include additional living expenses, which cover your day-to-day living expenses, such as a hotel. If you cannot live in your rental unit because of flood damage, you will have to pay for day-to-day living expenses.
Does renters insurance cover flood damage?
A standard renters insurance policy excludes flood damage, which means it won’t replace your possessions that are damaged by flooding. If you live in an area where flooding is common, or even possible, you should buy flood insurance to fully protect your personal possessions. Renters insurance also excludes earthquake damage and you will need a separate earthquake policy to cover damage caused by earthquakes.
What isn’t covered by renters flood insurance?
While exclusions vary by private insurers, the following are excluded from coverage with an NFIP policy:
- Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner or which is not caused by a flood
- Damage caused by earth movement, even if the earth movement is caused by a flood
- Additional living expenses, such as temporary housing, while the building is being repaired or is unable to be occupied
- Loss of use or access to the insured property
- Financial losses caused by business interruption
- Property and belongings outside of an insured building, such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools
- Currency, precious metals, and valuable papers, such as stock certificates
- Most self-propelled vehicles, such as cars, including their parts
How to buy flood insurance for a rental property
Purchasing flood insurance as a renter is fairly easy. An NFIP flood insurance can be purchased from an NFIP authorized agent or you can shop for flood insurance in the private market. While NFIP policies are backed by FEMA, they are sold via standard agents. You can find agents that sell NFIP policies here.
NFIP policies come with coverage caps of $100,000 for your personal possessions. It is possible to purchase a policy with lower coverage levels, but if you need coverage levels above $100,000 you will have to shop in the private market.
If you are looking for flood insurance from the private market, simply call local insurance companies to get a quote on a renters flood insurance policy. When you find one that meets your coverage requirements and is affordable, you will need to sign the policy paperwork and pay the premium for the policy to become active.
Most flood insurance policies (and all NFIP policies) come with a 30-day waiting period before coverage becomes active. This is to prevent people from purchasing coverage only when a storm is bearing down on them.
If your building is in a low-to-moderate risk area, you may be eligible for a Preferred Risk Policy according to FEMA. A Preferred Risk Policy comes with the lowest premiums available through NFIP. While you may not think you need coverage in a low to moderate risk area, roughly 26 percent of all NFIP flood claims occur in the low-to-moderate risk areas.
According to FEMA, these factors are considered when setting a rental flood insurance policy:
- Year of building construction
- Building occupancy
- Number of floors
- The location of your contents
- The flood risk (i.e., flood zone)
- The location of the lowest floor in relation to the elevation requirement on the flood map (in newer buildings only)
- The deductible you choose and the amount of coverage
How much does renters flood insurance cost?
Overall, the average annual flood insurance premium with NFIP is $958 nationally for homeowners, because an NFIP flood policy for a homeowner includes coverage for personal possessions and the home. But renters will pay much less for coverage because renters are only insuring their personal possessions.
Your own premium will vary depending on your apartment’s risk factors and will most likely fall well below the national average. However, if your building is in a high-risk area, the premium could be higher than the national average.
Where to buy flood insurance
In most cases, flood insurance is available from the NFIP or a private insurance company. The NFIP is currently the largest writer of flood insurance policies in the country and these policies are backed by FEMA but are sold via private insurers.
While private insurance policies currently make up a small percentage of the market, their slice of the pie is growing. Here are the major differences between an NFIP policy and a private market one:
- Maximum home rebuild limit: NFIP policies have a coverage cap of $250,000 which may not be enough depending on the cost to rebuild your home. Private market policies can have coverage limits of $500,000 or higher. While this doesn’t directly impact renters, homeowners should be aware of this limit.
- Coverage availability: NFIP policies are available in all 50 states while private market policies can be hard to find in high-risk areas. In many high-risk areas, NFIP coverage may be the only option.
- Waiting period: While an NFIP policy comes with a 30-day waiting period before coverage kicks in, a private party policy typically has a waiting period of two weeks or less.
- Replacement cost for possessions: An NFIP policy will value your personal possessions using actual cash value which accounts for depreciation. A private market policy will usually value personal possessions at replacement value so you will get a new one of similar quality regardless of how old it was when destroyed.
- Loss of use coverage: Loss of use coverage will help pay for some everyday expenses if your home is too damaged to live in after a flood. It will pay for hotels, restaurants, and even dry-cleaning bills. NFIP policies do not offer this coverage while private market policies typically do.
- Loss avoidance coverage: This coverage will typically pay to help prevent damage to your home before the flood hits, sandbags are an excellent example. NFIP policies will not pay for this coverage, but private market ones often include it.
How flood insurance rates are calculated
FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 which is a revamp of how premiums are calculated, will impact future NFIP rates. Here are a few changes that Risk Rating 2.0 brings to flood insurance:
NFIP flood insurance rates have historically been rated on static measurements such as the location of the home or rental property on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) combined with its elevation. Using only these rating factors resulted in inaccurate premiums with some homeowners paying dramatically less than they should have while others were paying too much for flood insurance.
Risk Rating 2.0 is designed to make premiums fair. FEMA will now look at private-sector data sets, catastrophe models, and evolving actuarial science to properly rate the risk of a home or apartment. They will also consider the frequency of storms, distance to a flooding source such as an ocean or river, as well as the cost to rebuild or repair the home.
This means that flood insurance premiums will be changing with some locations seeing some savings while others may experience dramatic increases in their flood insurance costs. FEMA projects the following when it comes to rate increases and decreases due to Risk Rating 2.0:
- 23% of current policyholders will experience a premium decrease
- 66% will see an increase of up to $10 per month
- 7% of current policyholders will experience a $10 to $20 per month increase
- 4% will see a monthly increase over $20
While average premium statistics are not out yet for Risk Rating 2.0, according to FEMA data, these five states will see over 80 percent of their policyholders paying more for coverage:
- Hawaii: 87 percent of NFIP policyholders will see a premium increase
- Texas: 86 percent will see an increase
- Mississippi: 84 percent will see an increase
- West Virginia: 83 percent will see an increase
- Florida and Louisiana: Tied at 80 percent
On the other hand, Alaska will see 84 percent of its policyholders pay less for coverage. The District of Columbia is a close second with 72 percent seeing a decline.
Frequently asked questions
Do you need flood insurance as a renter?
There is no legal requirement to purchase flood insurance as a renter, nor can your landlord legally require it. Flood insurance for renters only covers your personal possessions so if you are comfortable not protecting your property from flood damage, it is not a required coverage.
However, if there is a flooding risk in your building you should consider a policy. According to FEMA data, just 1 inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home and the average claim payout for homes of all sizes was $52,000 in 2019. If you do not have flood insurance and your apartment is flooded, the costs to replace all your possessions will fall to you.
Does renters insurance cover flood damage from hurricanes?
No, flood damage caused by excessive rain or storm surge is not covered by a renters insurance policy. In order to be protected against flood damage, you must carry a separate flood insurance policy.
Does renters insurance cover flooding in apartments?
No, renters insurance does not cover flood damage in an apartment. Just like a homeowners insurance policy, a renters policy excludes flood damage. It will pay for water damage that is caused by issues such as leaking pipes or a toilet overflow. Damage caused by flooding, storm surge or a sewer backup is not covered.
Does renters insurance cover flood damage to personal property?
No, renters insurance offers no coverage against flood damage. Flood damage is excluded from renters policies. You will need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy to fully protect your personal possessions.
A flood insurance policy for renters will cover your personal possessions and can be purchased via the NFIP or in the private insurance market.