As climate changes, have your home’s insurance needs changed too?

It’s happened in Maryland’s Ellicott City. It’s happened around Alexandria, as well as other parts of Virginia — sometimes because of tropical weather, and sometimes after a fierce summer thunderstorm.

Severe flooding is happening more often, and not just in places adjacent to water. It’s one reason why the federal government is changing how it determines flood risk for your property.

“Hurricane risk is certainly one, even in the D.C. region,” said David Maurstad, senior executive of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance program. He mentioned Hurricane Isabel as a recent example.

“We need to really address the urban flooding issue that’s developed over the last few years where you have increased development, more concrete and fewer places for the water to drain,” Maurstad said. “If you get a heavy rain during a severe weather event, it can certainly overwhelm drainage systems and cause flash floods.”

Now, what constitutes a “high risk property” has changed.

“The premium is based on the individual characteristics of your property, not on some flood zone where your property may be located,” he said. “We’re moving away from the line on the map that says if you’re on this side you need it, you’re required to have it, the other side of the line you don’t.”

Instead, high risk properties start with your proximity to a water source and the value of your property. But it also takes more into consideration.

“If you have a higher replacement cost, your premium is going to be higher to protect that property,” Maurstad added.

Other factors include “how the property is built, whether it’s a frame house or a masonry house, and of course elevation — how far the first floor is above the base flood elevation.”

He cautioned that 1 inch of water is enough to cause $25,000 in damage, and most home insurance policies don’t cover flooding. Also, he warned those policies can lapse and homeowners need to be proactive about renewing.

“Don’t wait because there’s a 30-day waiting period after you buy the policy before the coverage goes into effect,” Maurstad warned. “Take action now.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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