How Insurers Defined Flood Damage


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sets the legal definition of flood damage as a “general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow.” Understanding this definition is important if you’re a homeowner, since your insurance policy may not protect you from all types of water damage your property sustains. Sudden surges of water, sewage back ups, or rain water from a hurricane may all cause your property to flood. However, as we’ll explain below, not all of these conditions will result in what an insurer would define as flood damage. These distinctions become important during the processing of a claim, when your insurer decides what is and isn’t covered by your policy.

How Does Flood Damage Differ From Other Types of Water Damage?
  • vs Sudden or Accidental Discharge
  • vs Sewer backup or water backup
  • vs Storm/Hurricane Damage

How Does Flood Damage Differ From Other Types of Water Damage?

Though many types of water damage can affect your home, insurers are specific about what constitutes flood damage. The most common categories of water related damage include those arising from a sudden discharge, sewage/water backup or a storm or hurricane. By contrast, falling mud from a landslide is not considered flood damage. On the other hand, mudflows, such as those originating from nearby rivers, are covered by flood insurance.

These distinctions can become quite nuanced. Your best course of action is to find out what hazards constitute the biggest risks in your area, then discuss those with an insurance agent to ascertain what would and wouldn’t be covered under a policy. A local professional flood damage restoration company can help you through the insurance process.

Type of Water Damage

What Type of Insurance Do You Need?

  • Flood Damage: Damage that occurs when a normally dry land, two acres in size, becomes inundated by water or mudflow.  (Flood Insurance)
  • Sudden water discharge: A sudden water event that affected your home or the immediate surrounding area. (e.g. sprinkler system activating) (Homeowners/Renters Insurance)
  • Sewer/Water Backup: Water damage resulting from a below-ground water feature leaking. (Special Sewer and Water Backup Coverage)
  • Storm/Hurricane: Natural weather events with heavy rainfall and winds. (Homeowners/Renters Insurance will cover damage so long as water doesn’t cover over 2 acres of normally dry land.)