Flooding Not Covered Under Most Commercial Insurance Policies, I.I.I. Warns
NEW YORK, March 4, 2014 — The above average snowfall this year is likely to create optimal conditions for widespread flooding this spring that could wreak havoc on businesses. Without flood insurance, many businesses may soon find themselves under water, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Cash flow is the lifeblood of all businesses. But in the wake of a flood, too many business owners are forced to divert substantial funds to repairing flood-damaged property, instead of growing their business. And just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reports.
Even worse, almost 25 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).
“Ninety percent of all natural disasters involve flooding,” said Loretta Worters, vice president with the I.I.I. “From 2008 to 2012, the average commercial flood claim was more than $87,000; a substantial amount of money for a business to have to come up with on their own.”
Flood and sewer back-up is excluded under most standard commercial property insurance policies. Sewer back-up can be added to a policy as an endorsement. Coverage for flood-caused damage to a business is available from the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurers. When used in tandem with private insurance, NFIP coverage can mitigate or “buy down” large deductibles associated with commercial flood policies or simply provide additional coverage.
A standard commercial flood insurance policy covers direct physical losses caused by flood as well as losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by heavy or prolonged rain, coastal storm surge, snow melt, blocked storm drainage systems and levee or dam failure.
For small business owners, flood coverage is available as an endorsement to a Business Owners Policy (BOP), available through some private insurance companies, usually if the business is located outside a flood zone. But check with your insurer. Flood insurance for small businesses is also available from the NFIP.
The I.I.I. offers four key strategies for protecting your business during flood season:
1. Find out if your business is located in a flood zone. Your local government office or commercial bank should be able to provide this information. Knowing if a property is in a floodplain is critical in order to keep your employees and property safe during a storm, as well as to properly insure the business. Be aware that the NFIP is rolling out updated flood maps that will expand flood zones in many parts of the country. Do not assume that because you were not in a flood zone last year you will not be in one today!
2. Consider buying flood insurance. Flood insurance premiums are calculated based on a number of factors: flood risk to the structure; the year the building was constructed; building occupancy; number of floors; the location of the contents; the deductible chosen; and the amount of building and contents coverage, among other things. You may buy a policy that covers flood damage to both the structure and contents, or a policy that covers damage to only one. A business may need only one type of coverage if, for example, it does not own the building in which it is located, and the lease agreement does not require it to insure the premises. However, even if the property is leased, you may want to buy flood insurance to cover any improvements to the site. If your property is in a high-risk flood area and you have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender, you will be required to purchase a flood insurance policy. The maximum allowable commercial property limit for a small business is $500,000.
3. Include comprehensive coverage for your commercial vehicles. Flood damage to commercial or fleet vehicles is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of a standard commercial auto insurance policy.
4. Don’t wait until a flood is imminent to buy flood insurance. There is a 30-day waiting period for a new or modified flood insurance policy to become effective, unless the lender requires that flood insurance be purchased in connection with a mortgage loan, in which case there is no waiting period.
“Business owners should talk with their insurance professional about their flood risk and how best to protect against it,” said Worters, adding, “And act now—March 20 is the first day of spring.”