Insurance for Flooding
Most standard homeowner's insurance policies do not cover damage that results from flooding. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), enables property owners to purchase insurance to protect themselves from financial losses due to flooding.
Property owners may purchase flood insurance coverage for building structures, contents insurance for personal possessions, and additional insurance coverage for sewer backups. Properties located outside of the floodplain can also obtain insurance and generally have discounted insurance premiums.
If your property is in a floodplain and has a federally-backed mortgage, you are required to have flood insurance. Your mortgage lender is responsible for determining if the property is located in a floodplain and for advising you, in writing, to purchase flood insurance.
Discounted Flood Insurance Premiums
Boulder residents and businesses are eligible for up to a 25 percent discount on standard flood insurance rates, saving the average policyholder $168 per year. The 25 percent discount is estimated to collectively save Boulder businesses and residents approximately $529,585 each year, a higher savings than any other city in Colorado.
Review your existing insurance policies to determine if your current coverage is comprehensive enough to cover potential losses. In addition to buying flood insurance, property owners should also consider purchasing additional insurance coverage for sewer backups.
You can purchase insurance from a licensed private insurance company or an independent property and casualty insurance agent. This is usually your homeowner's insurance agent. Any local insurance agent can sell an insurance policy and legally must charge the same rate.
To find a qualified NFIP agent, call toll-free at 1-888-379-9531 or visit www.floodsmart.gov.
To see if your property is located in a floodplain, select the Map of Floodplains (Interactive).
To have city staff look up your floodplain information, fill out the Floodplain Information Request (Fax) form and either fax it to 303-441-4241 or drop it off in-person at the Planning and Development Services Center at 1739 Broadway, third floor.
You can also get a Public Flood Map or a Flood Insurance Rate Map from the FEMA Map Service Center.
Do not wait to buy insurance!
With most policies, there is a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance will take effect.
Elevation and Floodproofing Certificates
When purchasing flood insurance, the insurance agent may ask for an Elevation Certificate or Floodproofing Certificate. These certificates identify protection measures that may have been incorporated into the building's construction and are used to determine the annual premium costs for an insurance policy.
Only Elevation Certificates apply to residential structures, since FEMA does not recognize floodproofing measures for residential construction. If the lowest floor of a dwelling and its associated structures are located above the 100-year flood elevation, insurance premium costs are reduced. For new residential construction in Boulder, the lowest floor and associated structures must be constructed a minimum of two feet above the 100-year flood elevation.
Elevation Certificates must be prepared and certified by a Colorado-registered professional land surveyor. Floodproofing Certificates must be prepared and certified by a Colorado-registered professional engineer or architect.
Community Rating System
The NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages flood mitigation activities. Participating communities must implement specific measures to reduce the impacts of floods, including:
- adoption of federal Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs);
- local floodplain regulations;
- floodplain development permits;
- inspection for compliance;
- maintaining records of floodplain development;
- helping residents obtain flood information;
- floodplain master planning; and
- stormwater maintenance activities.
More than 1,200 communities nationwide participate in the CRS program and qualify for discounted flood insurance rates. Participating communities receive a CRS class rating ranging from 1 to 10, based on their additional efforts to reduce flood hazards. A Class 1 rating lowers insurance premiums by 45 percent while a Class 9 rating receives a 5 percent discount.
The City of Boulder’s flood management and education programs have earned the community a Class 5 CRS designation, in recognition of the city’s floodplain mapping studies, warning program, community education and outreach, stormwater management, Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan, and other municipal efforts to reduce the community’s risk. There are currently more Boulder property owners with flood insurance policies than in any other Colorado community.
The City of Boulder first joined the NFIP in 1978, began participating in the CRS in 1992 as a Class 8 community, and improved to a Class 7 in 2008, Class 6 in June 2012, and Class 5 in December 2012.
Changes to the Floodplain Map
The Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) identifies areas in a community that are subject to flooding and shows the risks associated with these flood hazards. One of the areas shown on a FIRM is a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), or the 100-year floodplain. This area has a one percent or greater chance of flooding in any given year.
FEMA uses the most accurate flood hazard information available and applies rigorous standards while developing FIRMs. However, because of limitations of scale or topographic definition on the source maps, there may be elevated areas or "islands" that are not actually in the new regulatory floodplain shown on the maps. These island areas may appear relatively small on the FIRM and are sometimes included in the 100-year floodplain by nationwide floodplain map determination companies that prepare floodplain designations on behalf of the mortgage industry. Such cases are referred to as "inadvertent inclusions."
The City of Boulder will attempt to identify any inadvertent inclusions and notify the property owners of the Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) processes and the "grandfather" provisions of the NFIP that may apply to their situations.
If your property is an inadvertent inclusion, you can submit a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F) to change the designation of your property and avoid the federal flood insurance requirements for properties located in the 100-year floodplain. In most cases, you will need to hire a licensed land surveyor or registered professional engineer to prepare an Elevation Certificate for the property. FEMA will normally complete its review and issue a decision in four to six weeks.
The issuance of a LOMA or LOMR-F eliminates the federal flood insurance requirement as a condition of federal or federally-backed financing; however, mortgage lenders can still require flood insurance as a condition of providing financing, regardless of the location of a structure.
Purchasing a flood insurance policy is wise even if your property is located outside of the 100-year floodplain. More than 25 percent of claims are made by property owners located outside the 100-year floodplain.
LOMA and LOMR-F determinations cannot be made by FEMA until after a flood mapping study is officially adopted. However, if you think you qualify for a LOMA or LOMR-F determination, you may want to confirm this by contacting a licensed land surveyor or registered professional engineer today.
If your home was previously considered outside the 100-year floodplain and was constructed without flood protection measures, you may be eligible for reduced insurance rates.
The NFIP offers Grandfather Provisions for structures built in compliance with the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) that was in effect at the time of construction, as well as structures built before a rate map was in place.
If your building was constructed before July 17, 1978 (Pre-FIRM construction), you are eligible to maintain the prior flood zone and base flood elevation as long as you maintain continuous coverage and purchase your policy before the revised FIRM goes into effect. The flood policy can also be assigned to a new owner at the option of the policyholder. If you do not obtain a policy for a Pre-FIRM building before the effective date of the FIRM change, then you are eligible to receive the Pre-FIRM (subsidized) rates based on the new flood zone rather than the actual elevation-based rates.
If your building was constructed after July 17, 1978 (Post-FIRM construction), you are eligible to maintain the prior flood zone and base flood elevation as long as you maintain continuous coverage and purchase your policy before the revised FIRM goes into effect. The flood policy can also be assigned to a new owner at the option of the policyholder. If the building was constructed in compliance with a specific FIRM, you are eligible to obtain a policy using the flood zone and base flood elevation from the FIRM that was in place at the time of construction. Proof of the compliant construction and FIRM in place at the time of construction must be submitted to the insurance company as part of obtaining a policy. Continuous flood insurance coverage is not required to remain eligible for this rating.
- Buildings written on Preferred Risk Policies are required to be located in zones B, C, or X on the FIRM in effect on the date of application and on the date of each subsequent renewal.
- A building that becomes ineligible for a Preferred Risk Policy due to a map change to a special flood hazard area (100-year floodplain) can be rewritten on a standard rated policy using zones B, C, or X.