The average annual cost of flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is $850 for California homeowners. But renters, who would only be insuring their personal possessions and not the building they’re in, can expect to pay much less for their coverage.
The cost of insuring your rental home’s contents still can vary significantly, depending on several factors, including if you live in a high-risk area, the coverage amount you want, and the deductible you choose.
Read on to learn more about purchasing flood insurance as a California renter, including what it can cost and why you might choose to purchase a policy to protect your belongings.
What Is Flood Insurance?
While most renters insurance policies cover some types of water damage (from a burst pipe or an overflowed toilet, for example), a standard renters policy typically doesn’t cover flood damage that comes from outside the home or from underground sources.
To be sure your furniture, electronics, and other belongings are protected if waters rise and flooding affects your rental home, you may need to buy a separate flood policy that will help you repair or replace what you’ve lost.
How Can Renters Get Flood Insurance?
Most people get their flood coverage through the NFIP, which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The NFIP works with a network of insurance companies across the country to provide policies.
FEMA’s flood insurance for renters and others isn’t sold directly by the federal government. Instead, you can purchase an NFIP policy through an authorized insurance company, under what’s known as a Write Your Own (WYO) program. The NFIP works with more than 50 insurance companies, so if an agent or broker helped you purchase your renters or auto policy, you can probably work with that same person or organization. If not, you can get help finding an NFIP provider online at FloodSmart.gov, or you can call the NFIP at 877-0336-2627.
You also may want to check into private, non-government-backed flood insurance policies that may be offered in your area. These policies have different coverage limits, premiums, and deductible amounts than what an NFIP policy offers and can be a good fit for some needs. Just be sure your quote is coming from a stable company that is capable of paying out claims in the event of a major flood.
What Is Covered by Flood Insurance?
The NFIP offers two types of flood coverage. You can get a policy that covers a building only, a policy that covers only the contents in the building, or you can get coverage for both a building and its contents.
It’s up to a building’s owner to decide whether to buy flood insurance for their structure. Renters only have to worry about getting coverage for the possessions they keep in their rental condo, apartment, or house.
What does flood insurance cover for renters? An NFIP contents-only policy can provide up to $100,000 in personal property damage and typically covers items like:
• Personal belongings, including clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment (TVs, computers, etc.)
• Valuables, such as original artwork (up to $2,500)
• Portable and window air conditioners
• Washer and dryer
• Microwave or convection oven
• Curtains and other window coverings
What Isn’t Covered by Flood Insurance?
Most personal property kept in a basement — including money, furniture, clothing, and electronics — won’t be covered by NFIP flood insurance. So if you’re renting a basement apartment (even if it’s a walkout basement), you’ll want to be clear about what can and can’t be insured.
Items you keep outside the building also may not be covered under an NFIP policy, including your car, bicycle, or plants.
NFIP flood insurance also won’t cover the costs you may incur if you must move to temporary housing because of flooding damage. (If you have renters insurance with “loss of use coverage,” you may be out of luck there, too. Loss of use coverage typically pays out only when the reason you’ve been displaced is covered by your renters policy — and as noted above, the standard renters policy doesn’t cover flooding damage.)
Keep in mind that private flood policies may have different coverage exclusions.
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Is Flood Insurance Required for California Renters?
Flood insurance isn’t legally mandated for renters in California, or anywhere in the U.S. And though your landlord can require renters insurance, a landlord can’t make renters purchase a separate flood policy.
However, if you feel your personal property could be at risk, you may want to consider adding flood protection.
Residents may worry more about their risk from earthquakes and wildfires, but according to the Public Policy Institute of California, much of the state is vulnerable to flooding. The valleys are susceptible to overflowing rivers. Some coastal areas are unprotected from high tides and storm-driven waves. Deserts and areas burned by wildfires may be hit by flash flooding. And urban areas with poor drainage systems and lots of concrete are at risk of flooding from heavy rains.
FEMA says just one inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage. And without a flood policy, the cost of replacing your ruined belongings would fall to you.
How Can You Assess Your Rental’s Risk?
Knowing your designated flood zone can help you decide if you want to prioritize purchasing flood insurance for your rental. You can find your zone by entering your address at the FEMA Flood Map Service Center at MSC.FEMA.gov. Buildings in zones A and V are at the highest risk for flooding, while those in zones B, C, and X are considered at moderate risk.
Even if you don’t live in a high-risk zone, you can still experience flood damage. More than 20% of all insurance claims come from moderate- to low-risk flood zones, according to NFIP data.
If you’re new to the state or your city — or even if you’ve just moved to a new building — you may want to speak with your neighbors or landlord about the history and potential for flooding.
How Much Is Flood Insurance for Renters?
The NFIP offers contents-only policies for as low as $100 annually. Your premium can vary based on several factors, including the items you plan to protect and their replacement cost.
Remember, with an NFIP contents-only policy, the maximum amount of coverage you can get is $100,000. If your needs go beyond that threshold, you may want to consider buying excess flood insurance through a private flood policy. Or you may find a private policy alone is a better fit for you.
If it seems as though adding a flood policy on top of the cost of renters insurance might be beyond your budget, you may be able to lower the premium by raising your deductible amount. And your insurance agent can probably make other suggestions to keep the cost down.
It might make sense to sit down and look at how renters insurance for flooding would fit — along with life, car, health, and standard renters insurance — as part of your overall personal insurance planning. Don’t put off the decision to purchase until forecasters are predicting a potential flood event, though. There is typically a 30-day waiting period for an NFIP flood insurance policy to go into effect.
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FEMA offers flood insurance for renters, known as contents coverage, for as low as $100 a year through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). But the cost of an NFIP policy or a private (non-government-backed) flood policy can vary significantly depending on where you live and what you want to protect. Flood insurance is a standalone policy, so the premium would be on top of whatever you may be paying for renters insurance. (Most renters insurance policies don’t cover flood damage.)
While SoFi doesn’t offer flood insurance, the National Flood Insurance Program offers coverage that can protect you from expensive damage.
If it’s time to reevaluate your overall insurance plan, SoFi can help. SoFi teams with top carriers to help you get reliable coverage with the convenience of shopping for insurance online. With SoFi Protect, you can search for the coverage you need — for your home and belongings, life, and car — at a price you can afford.
Is there flood insurance for renters?
Yes. Renters can get contents-only insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private (non-government-backed) flood policy.
Can my landlord require flood insurance?
No. Flood insurance is not legally mandated in any state, and landlords can’t require renters to carry it.
Will my bicycle, kids’ toys, and other things I store outside my apartment be covered by flood insurance?
An NFIP contents-only policy won’t cover items that are kept outside, and there are also limits on what an NFIP policy will cover in a basement.
Photo credit: iStock/Cunaplus_M.Faba
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