Flood insurance not available in Willmar
WILLMAR -- Flood insurance is not available to property owners in the city of Willmar under the National Flood Insurance Program.
However, many insurance policies do cover water damage from sewer or drain backup.
"There are many misconceptions ab-out insurance coverage and flooding,'' says Bob Johnson, president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota. "The biggest misconception is that you can't get flood insurance unless you live in a floodplain, but that's not true."
Johnson said many homeowners' insurance policies do cover water damage from the backup of sewers or drains if the homeowner carries an additional "rider" on their policy.
This optional coverage also pays if a sump pump fails or is not working due to a power outage.
The "backup of sewer and drain endorsement" is surprisingly inexpensive, typically costing under $50 per year, says Johnson.
Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, urges property owners who think they might suffer from sewer or drain backup to act now because there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect.
Kulda recommends property owners read their policies and discuss their coverage with their insurance agents.
Auto owners also have coverage for flood damage to their vehicles under their comprehensive auto insurance coverage, if they've purchased it, said Johnson. While comprehensive coverage is not required under the state's mandatory auto insurance coverage, many lenders require borrowers to carry comprehensive coverage.
Johnson said some commercial insurance policies also have provisions that pay for flood damage if the business owner buys such coverage. A commercial insurance agent or broker can help determine the right amount of coverage needed, he said.
Kevin Halliday, Willmar city clerk-treasurer, said flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program is not available in Willmar because the City Council has not voted to participate in the program.
The federal floodplain map for Willmar includes properties in floodplain areas around Foot Lake and Willmar Lake, said Halliday.
However, Willmar does not participate in the program because those areas in the city have never flooded and conversations that city officials have had with real estate agents and others indicate that property owners do not want to buy flood insurance, according to Halliday.
According to the state Insurance Federation, almost 85 percent of Minnesota cities, towns, counties and townships participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Even though Willmar residents are unable to buy flood insurance, residents of unincorporated areas of Kandiyohi County are able to buy flood insurance because the county participates in the program, Kulda says.
According to Johnson, federally regulated lenders require flood insurance for mortgagees who live in areas most prone to flooding.
Now that hydrologists have forecast a strong likelihood of flooding, particularly because of the deep snowpack in flood-prone areas in Minnesota, the insurance industry in Minnesota is reminding property owners to take action now before flooding strikes, says Johnson.
Kulda said more information about flood insurance is available at floodsmart.gov.