Expect to pay more for flood insurance

HOUSTON As we told you way back in 2007, the flood plain maps in Harris County have been updated. In some cases, homes that were never in the flood plain before are now included. You know what that means -- higher rates for flood insurance.

The expanded flood plain maps put thousands of homes into the 100 year flood plain for the first time and for some of those homeowners, the move has doubled their flood insurance premiums.

Half the homes that flooded in western Harris county back in April were not covered by flood insurance. For some homeowners who saw the devastation on TV and thought buying flood insurance makes sense, a nasty surprise was waiting -- higher flood insurance premiums.

"People might be shocked by the price," said Heather Saucier with the Harris County Flood Control District.

The reason? Two years ago the flood maps were expanded to more accurately reflect the potential for flooding. Many homes that were not in the mapped flood plain now are. For those home owners, a new flood insurance policy is more expensive today because of the flood map changes. In some cases premiums that were $300 before the change are now twice that amount, if not more.

If you bought flood insurance prior to the map change, your premiums should reflect the old flood map status. If you sell a home in the flood plain and already have flood insurance, the home's older, less expensive flood plain status remains as long as the new homeowner does not let the coverage lapse.

If you build a new home in a flood plain, you will pay flood insurance based on the current flood maps. But it is possible to get a reduced flood insurance premium on a new home.

Saucier said, "Getting a surveyor out to their property and getting the surveyor to give them an elevation certificate showing that their house, although located in a flood plain, is actually elevated above that flood plain and so the insurance rates will go down from there."

While the flood plain grandfather status keeps most flood insurance premiums from doubling or even tripling, some home owners say their premiums still went up after the flood plain maps expanded to include their homes.

Homeowner Steve Hanrahan said, "The rate went from about $285 or $300 to over $1,000 and some of my neighbors are still paying the old rate and I don't understand why."

We asked about this and were told by officials at FEMA that each home is evaluated on its own merits and it's possible premiums went up for some homes that were grandfathered, but the increase would have been more if the homeowner never had the insurance to begin with.

Across the nation flood insurance premiums are going up by eight percent and you will see that increase when you renew your flood insurance.

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