The 30 Day Waiting Period: Don’t Wait Until It's Too Late

Clock in water

Imagine: It’s June 1st. The local meteorologist just reminded viewers that today marks the beginning of hurricane season, and it is predicted to be a busy one. You decide to review your disaster preparation checklist and realize you are missing an essential item: flood insurance. 


You think to yourself, “No problem, I’ll just call my insurance agent and have it done today.” Not so fast! The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has a 30-day waiting period in effect to prevent homeowners from purchasing a policy at the last minute when a flood is imminent.


Exceptions to the Rule

The standard NFIP guidelines require a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase to the time a flood policy goes into effect. However, as with every rule, some exceptions permit the waiting period to be waived. 


If you are in the process of closing a loan, whether it be a mortgage or refinance, and flood insurance is required, the 30-day waiting period no longer applies. In this case, your flood policy will be effective on the date of your loan closing. Also, if you have to add coverage to your existing flood policy due to lender requirements, there is no waiting period for those changes.


For voluntary NFIP policies, not required by your lender, increases in coverage can only be done at the renewal to avoid a waiting period. If you wish to increase your coverage mid-term and at a higher limit than your insurer suggests, you will have to wait 30 days for the additional coverage to go into effect. 


FEMA is required to review flood maps every five years; therefore, changes can happen at any time. If FEMA sends you a notice stating your property has been moved into a high-risk flood zone, you have the option to buy flood insurance without the 30-day waiting period. In this case, you can purchase a flood policy within 13 months of the map revision and only experience a waiting period of one day.


Following the extremely active wildfire season California experienced in 2011, many residents were made aware of their flood risk. Acknowledging this, the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed and included an exception to the 30-day waiting period in the event of a wildfire. This exception states the 30-day waiting period will be waived post-wildfire if a flood originates on federal land and damages your property, post-wildfire flooding on federal land worsens, or the flood policy was purchased within 60 days of fire containment. If you purchased a flood policy just before the wildfire event, but less than 30 days of the wildfire, the waiting period can also be waived, and your coverage begins immediately.


Private Flood

The 30-day waiting period only applies to flood policies through the NFIP. If you look at the private flood insurance market, waiting periods vary. If you purchase a flood policy for a loan requirement, there is no waiting period if your mortgage pays the premium. If you choose another form of payment, the typical wait is ten days after the policy application is submitted. 


You also have the option to replace an NFIP policy with a private flood policy at renewal, and there is no waiting period. Just submit the application and payment 30 days before your NFIP policy expires.


For any other instance, the waiting period can be ten to 30 days, depending on the carrier’s guidelines. 


My Flood Risk

Whether you choose the NFIP or a private carrier to protect your property from rising waters, My Flood Risk, a FREE, interactive, web-based platform, will be available later this summer to help property owners in low- to moderate-risk flood zones determine their potential flood risk by using an illustration of real-life, industry-proven flood factors. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
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