Fewer Californians Buying Flood Insurance Despite Record-Breaking Year


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Flood insurance claims in California soared nearly 211% in 2023, reaching an all-time high of more than $59.3 million, according to National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) data. And despite severe flooding and storms that caused nearly $5 billion in damages last year, the number of Californians with NFIP policies decreased in 2023.

The rising cost of flood and homeowners insurance in California could be a factor in homeowners’ decision to forgo flood insurance.

Rising insurance costs

Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the NFIP is the largest provider of flood insurance in the country. FEMA implemented a new pricing structure in 2023 that caused NFIP premiums to increase by $10 or more per month for about 73% of California policyholders. Nearly 4% saw their monthly premiums rise by $20 or more.

Standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flooding — homeowners needing flood coverage must buy a separate flood insurance policy. Those with federally backed mortgages in zones FEMA has designated as high-risk are required to purchase NFIP coverage.

But homeowners with federally backed loans who aren’t in a high-risk zone, those with conventional mortgages, or those with paid-off homes aren’t required to buy flood insurance. And many don’t.

Meanwhile, a shrinking pool of home insurers and an increasing number of severe weather and wildfire threats are pushing home insurance costs higher in the Golden State. The average annual cost of homeowners insurance in California was $1,782 in 2023, according to Insurify data. And Insurify’s data analysts predict rates will rise another 8% in 2024.

Rising flood risks

More than 7 million Californians are at risk for flooding, and in the past two decades, every county in the state has experienced a flood-related emergency, according to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

Last year was also a historic one for weather threats in the state.

California had multiple instances of heavy rainfall that led to severe flooding in 2023. In January, a storm that brought heavy rains, high winds, and large coastal waves caused massive flooding on the state’s central coast. February then saw record rainfall in portions of Southern California. And in August, the state experienced its first-ever tropical storm watch, and Hurricane Hilary caused record-breaking rainfall and flooding in the Southwest.

Los Angeles alone got more than 29 inches of rain — 207% of its normal amount.

“Climate extremes are creating more challenges for California, including increasing flood risk across the state,” Karla Nemeth, DWR director, said in an October 2023 statement.

What’s next: Higher risk, fewer protected

California’s massive 2023 NFIP claims payout amount stemmed from just 1,085 claims. The year’s flooding affected thousands of homes and businesses in the state.

Despite last year’s billion-dollar flood damages, California experienced a 1% decline in the number of NFIP policies in force. As of mid-April 2024, 1,934 fewer NFIP policies were in effect in California.

“Flood insurance is available through the Federal Flood Insurance program and must be in force for 30 days prior to a flood,” the state’s Department of Insurance says. “Experts are suggesting consumers, including those in traditionally low-risk areas, consider purchasing flood coverage before warm weather begins to melt the snow.”

This article originally appeared on Insurify and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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