Outdated FEMA Maps Forcing People to Buy Unnecessary Flood Insurance

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Everyone knows the golden rule of real estate: "Location, location, location." But that's also one of the golden rules of insurance. If you live in a city with a high rate of car accidents and thefts, for instance, you can expect to pay more for your car insurance premiums. It's understandable that insurers would adjust premiums based on regional trends, but it's also not entirely fair: A safe driver who parks in a locked garage is still going to pay high premiums if he or she lives in a city like Washington, D.C.

And it turns out the calculus for determining whether you need to buy flood insurance can also be unfair.

As the Today Show reports, some homeowners are being forced to buy flood insurance even if they aren't in a flood zone. The program spoke to Nancy and Mike Heath, a couple who were told they needed to buy the insurance despite the fact that their house is situated atop a hill, far from any running water.

How did this happen? The short version: It's the government's fault.

Flood insurance is purchased through the government's National Flood Insurance Program, and is based on FEMA's flood maps. Unfortunately, it seems that many of these maps are hopelessly out of date. The Heaths, for instance, were told they were in a flood zone based on a flood map more than three decades old, and which showed that there was a creek running through their house. Obviously, there is no creek running through their house.

These are mistakes that can cost homeowners tens of thousands of dollars if they're forced to buy the insurance to take out a mortgage. But the good news is that you aren't completely helpless if you've been erroneously placed in a flood zone -- you can file an appeal with FEMA, and use local records and a land surveyor to bolster your case. Given how much money is at stake, you don't want to just accept the judgment of an obsolete government map.


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16 Comments

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Scrides

FEMA...we are not living in America, we are living in communist Russia...forced to buy flood insurance at a high rate because some ******* from FEMA says you might have a flood in a hundred years. You ought to read the policy...to get paid you got to either be totally flooded or not have their goddamn insurance.....crooks!

September 13 2013 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jdykbpl45

Blame Obama hi is the cause.

September 12 2013 at 5:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
freeetob

We here in South Florida don't blame FEMA as much for how flood zones are mapped; we blame the insurance companies. Every couple of years the east and west coast "flood zones" are moved closer together and premiums are hiked. Soon, everything south of Orlando will be a "flood zone" and it has nothing to do with global warming.

September 12 2013 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hsstempe

FEMA'S HEAD IS UP ITS BUTT AND IT IS TERMINAL! THEY NEED A CLEAR PLASTID BELT BUCKLE TO SEE WHERE THEY ARE GOING DAMN NEAR ALL OF PHOENIX IS IN A FLOOD PLAIN BUT YA THINK THEY WOULD DARE TRY THAT ONE! THE OBVIOUS ANSWER IS HELL NO AS THE RESULTANT BLOW UP WOULD BE NUCLEAR. ADVICE; FIGHT THOSE BAS***** ANY FORM SHAPE WAY OR MANNER AND FORCE THEM OUT OF OUR POCKETS. thieves!

September 12 2013 at 3:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
joeworld2

The issue here isn't should you be insured or shouldn't you. The issue is fairness and equity. Old FEMA maps can be grossly inaccurate. And yet for all the improvements of modern aerial technology what is done today is just as bad if not worse. Our neighborhood was recently remapped by aerial photography. Everywhere this is done, floodplains have been increased simply as a method of increasing the #'s of residents affected by the new mappings. It is done with a low degree of accuracy because in some well known flood prone areas, far too much property is located in actual flood ways and floods plains such as the the midwest in particular. Remapping results in dramatic increases in properties added to the insurance pool. in other words people who are in no danger of flooding are thrown into the flood insurance pool simply to share the burden of those that are clearly living in dwellings that should never have been built given what was known at the time. This is government's answer to many things that ought to be corrected. Instead of correcting the original mistakes they simply increase the misery pool. It's farm subsidies. If farmers cannot self regulate they are then protected at taxpayers expense. I suppose I could pretend I don't know this. But it's difficult when you stop and think about the extent to which midwesterners complain about the spending habits of the rest of the nation. Bible thumpers ought to spend more time thumping one another. Did I say 'thump"?

September 12 2013 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gwahl34

Good I think the cable companys should go out I will build and design a premium network that will blow them all away and the consumer will like it even better and it will easier to use and watch what YOU WANT!

September 12 2013 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
reiterco

It's a good thing the government is now in charge of health care.

September 12 2013 at 10:38 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to reiterco's comment
sam54ct

Better safe than sorry. Here in Vermont, many lost homes after flooding last Summer, who had fought to be removed from our Town/FEMA flood zone mapping. The result, no homes, no money to repay the bank loans.

September 12 2013 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
storytellerjmc

We should have learned from FEMA's inept response to Katrina. Agencies of the Federal
Government become havens for incompetent, politically connected managers and employees.
And we taxpayers pay their salary and the consequences of their poor performance.

September 12 2013 at 10:20 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to storytellerjmc's comment
chrispnet

Only the political appointees are "politically connected". The rank and file government employees are incompetent all by themselves.

September 12 2013 at 12:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rwilliamhoward

Should have known BEFORE Katrina. These maps were made in 1981. And just think! They have camps all ready for us, so they can 're-educate' us. And coffins for us should we prove un-cooperative.

September 12 2013 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
robinlupe

Submit a more detailed elevation survey, the gov't has limits to it's surveys scrutiny for cost and scale reasons. You will be exempted and your submittal will become part of your community's Flood Study, specifically a "Letter Of Map Amendment" (LOMA). Alternatively if you "revise" the elwevation before new construction, (by adding fill to the site) and you show "as built" evidence and submit a "Letter Of Map Revision" (LOMR) you will be similarly exempted from flood insurance.

September 12 2013 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
avl14

do not be a fool have the flood insurence, anywhere on earth can have a flood

September 12 2013 at 8:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to avl14's comment
beetle

Youbuy it. Insurance would have cost $2600 per year if I hadn't contested FEMA's arbitrary flood plain. They claim your in it, then make you go to expense of defending yourself. I'm in appeal as we speak.

September 12 2013 at 9:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to beetle's comment
sam54ct

And when you get flooded, like five of my neighbors in the 500 year flood zone, after hurricane Irene, you'll be whining for support.

September 12 2013 at 12:09 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down
rwilliamhoward

Operative word here is CAN. It CAN snow at sea level on the equator. But it's not LIKELY. If you can simply afford it, get all of whatever insurance you can. It can't hurt.

September 12 2013 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply