Does Flood Insurance Cover Docks?

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  • Does Flood Insurance Cover Docks?

Living on the water has countless perks. Unfortunately, it also means you’re likely required to have flood insurance since it often puts you in a federally designated flood zone. Frustratingly, the flood insurance you’re required to get may not cover all features on your property, like your dock. Let’s take a closer look to better understand the protection your dock is offered.

Does Flood Insurance Cover Docks?

Flood insurance generally doesn’t cover docks. Docks are usually considered detached structures, and detached structures on properties aren’t covered by federal flood insurance. You may be able to find some private flood insurer that covers docks, although it’s unlikely.

The National Flood Insurance Program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA), is the largest flood insurance provider in the United States by far. It pays out NFIP claims and claims that can be handled by private insurance companies through the Write-Your-Own program. In the case of the WYO, a private insurer will handle the claim but the government is still in charge of reimbursement.

Since it’s a publicly funded offering, it has no writing restrictions or limitations. The government must make NFIP policies available to everyone. This is good for availability, but it can be bad for business. The government can’t turn down high-risk areas that would historically be denied a policy by a private insurance company trying to mitigate its risk.

As a result, you can’t customize NFIP policies very much. They have strict policy maximums of $250,000 per dwelling and $100,000 for contents coverage. And, NFIP policies typically exclude other structures on your property detached from your home. These include fences, retaining walls, seawalls, bulkheads, wharves, piers, bridges, and docks. 

The government simply can’t afford to cover these for each policyholder. It doesn’t have the time to handle claims complications that would come with covering docks. And, it doesn’t have the money; the NFIP loses money every year and is running at a deficit as it is. Adding dock coverage to NFIP flood insurance isn’t financially feasible for the government.

NFIP and Structures Over Water

Docks and other structures over water would be especially problematic to cover under flood insurance since their proximity to water leaves them very vulnerable to flood damage all the time. The NFIP has sections of their policy that outline why they exclude structures over water.

First, it’s important to understand what’s considered a flood. The NFIP defines conditions that make up a flood to be:

  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source
  • Mudflow
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above

As you might imagine, a dock would be especially susceptible to these conditions regularly. Including a dock in flood coverage based on these definitions wouldn’t be feasible. As a result, NFIP policies don’t cover any “building, and personal property in it, located entirely in, on, or over water or seaward of mean high tide.”

 It further elaborates that it “does not provide coverage for a building that has its exterior perimeter walls located entirely over water, even if [it] is not entirely in, on, or over water or seaward of mean high tide.” This is rather wordy, but examples of excluded structures that fall under this provision include:

  • A stairway, platform, walkway, or driveway over water that provides access to the building
  • A part of the support for the building, such as a post, pier, piling, dock, foundation, or slab that’s over water
  • A porch, patio, deck, or other outdoor building extensions over water

Thus, docks and other structures partially or wholly over water, are pretty safely excluded from NFIP policies.

Does Flood Insurance Cover Boathouses?

Boathouses are also largely excluded, although you may get some coverage if parts of your boathouse are 1) over land and 2) used for residential purposes, like if someone lives in a room attached to the boathouse. But, contents in the boathouse and any walls and floors pertaining to boathouse use not shared with the covered room are excluded.

To find flood insurance that covers boathouses, your best bet would be to look for specialty private insurance companies. Some private flood insurers offer other structures coverage in their policies. Neptune Flood Insurance, for instance, offers up to $50,000 in coverage for unattached structures on your property. They may cover a boathouse but likely will still exclude docks. Either way, be prepared to pay a higher premium for such coverage.  

Keep in mind that your homeowners insurance policy may provide some coverage for your dock. It can protect your dock from covered perils, but any damage caused by freezing or flooding would still be excluded. Check with your carrier on the specifics of dock coverage in your homeowners insurance, as some plans may have further conditions or exclusions.

Does Flood Insurance Cover Seawalls?

Flood insurance typically doesn’t cover seawalls either. Seawalls are excluded by name in NFIP policies, and private flood insurers likely won’t cover them. Seawalls are too prone to flooding to be covered by most flood insurance policies since they’re designed to be beaten by water fairly regularly. 

Homeowners insurance may protect your seawall from covered perils, but it won’t cover your seawall if it’s damaged by erosion or flooding. Homeowners insurance typically excludes all earth movements and flooding-related damage. You’ll likely need to find a type of specialty marine insurer for any seawall insurance coverage.

Stay Above Water With Flood Insurance

Do you want to pay for costly and common flood damage yourself or have an insurance policy pick up the tab?

The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.

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