Everything You Need to Know About Flood Insurance in California

Flood insurance in California is required for homeowners with federally-backed mortgages in FEMA-designated flood zones with a high risk of flooding.
Written by Heather Bernhard
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
The state of
doesn’t mandate flood insurance; however, your mortgage lender may require it as a condition of your loan.  
If you live in the Golden State, flooding is a serious risk—every county has declared a flood disaster area at least once. As the weather grows more unpredictable and severe, experts expect even more intense storms and all the destruction they leave in their wake.
While a standard homeowners insurance policy will likely cover storm damage, such as wind, it will not cover flood damage. If you want flood protection, you must purchase separate flood insurance through the
National Flood Insurance Program
(NFIP) or a private insurance company.
If this all sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. This guide to flood insurance in California will tell you everything you need to know, with a bit of help from home and
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What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance is specific insurance coverage that protects your house and belongings if they are damaged in a flood. Typical homeowners and renters policies do not cover flood damage.
Mortgage lenders usually require enough flood insurance coverage to cover the principal balance on the mortgage, though borrowers may purchase additional coverage for their personal belongings as well. 
For example, if you have $150,000 left on your mortgage, your lender will require a flood policy that covers at least $150,000
In addition, if you live in a
Special Flood Hazard Area
and have a federally backed mortgage, you are required by the NFIP to have flood insurance.
It is important to note that NFIP policies cap at $250,000 of building coverage and $100,000 of contents coverage, though you may be able to get more from a private insurer. 

What does flood insurance cover?

Flood insurance covers damage or loss of your home or belongings directly related to flooding. A flood is an overflow of water onto land that is usually dry; it can be caused by heavy rain, rogue waves, snow melts, and more.
Here is some of what’s covered by an NFIP policy in California: 
  • Damage to your foundation walls, anchorage systems, and stairwells
  • Permanently installed carpeting
  • Furnaces and water heaters
  • Fuel tanks and well water tanks
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what’s covered (and what isn’t) under each type of insurance:
Type of coverage
What it covers
What it doesn’t cover
Electrical and plumbing systems Water heaters and furnaces Large appliances like dishwashers or refrigerators Permanently installed bookcases, cabinets, and paneling Permanently installed carpets Window blinds Foundational walls, staircases, and anchorages Detached garages Fuel tanks, solar panels, and well water tanks/pumps
Decks and patios Swimming pools Fences and landscaping
Clothing Furniture Electronic equipment Curtains Washing machine and dryer Portable air conditioners, including window units Carpets not included in building coverage Valuables such as artwork up to $2,500
Valuable papers Currency Anything stored in a basement
Key Takeaway Flood insurance only covers damage that is directly caused by floods. So, for example, if your sewer backs up due to flooding, it will be covered. But if it backs up due to clogged pipes, it will not be covered.
MORE: Signs of a flood damaged car

Do you need flood insurance in California?

The state of California does not require citizens to purchase flood insurance policies. However, depending on your home's flood zone and the type of mortgage you have, your lender might.
That being said, it's probably still a good idea to purchase flood insurance, even if it’s not required. According to the
Public Policy Institute of California
, the state is flood-prone, and one in five residents and more than $580 billion worth of structures are at risk of damage.
If a flood occurs, and you don't have a flood insurance policy, damage to your property won't be covered by your homeowners insurance. In addition, it's unlikely that you'll receive government assistance unless a federal disaster is declared. 
The bottom line? Damage can be costly, and you don't want to be left paying for it out of pocket.

What flood zones require flood insurance in California?

In California, if you live in Special Flood Zone Areas that start with an A (100-year flood) or V (coastal waves and storm surge), you will need flood insurance to obtain a federally backed mortgage. 
If your home is in an area labeled B, C, or X, flooding is considered minimal risk, and you typically will not be required to purchase flood insurance.
Flood Map Service Center
can show you what zone you’re in, but figuring it out can be tricky. Don’t worry, though: your lender will let you know if you’re required to get insurance!
Key Takeaway Special Flood Hazard Areas are routinely re-evaluated, so it's best to check the Federal Emergency Management Agency's
Flood Maps
to determine your neighborhood’s flood risk.

How much does flood insurance cost in California?

The average cost of flood insurance in California is $779 per year—much lower than the national average of $958. But that doesn’t mean that Californians have it easy: by all accounts, the state gets hit with more than its fair share of flooding. 
Of course, $779 is just the average, and the cost of flood insurance varies depending on which flood zone your house is in and how much it will cost to replace. Your premium will also vary depending on if you add content coverage, and for how much. 
It is important to note that NFIP flood insurance policies have deductibles between $1,000 and $10,000—that is the amount you will pay out of pocket in the case of flood damage. Typically, the lower the deductible, the higher the monthly payment, and the higher the deductible, the lower the monthly payment.
MORE: How much does home insurance cost in a flood zone?

How to save money on flood and auto insurance in California

You can do a few key things to lower the amount you pay for flood insurance in California, such as providing an elevation certificate or choosing a higher deductible. 
However, the best thing you can do is to compare rates from private companies to those of the NFIP. You may find that the cheapest flood insurance doesn’t necessarily come from the government. 
And remember: flood damage to a car is only covered under an auto policy’s comprehensive coverage. If you want to make sure your vehicle is protected in the case of heavy rains or a flash flood, check with your agent or speak to the knowledgeable representatives at
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