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Home owners insurance and the problem of flooding


There are several facts clear. When you look at all the different types of natural disaster that can affect your home, flooding is one of the most common. It makes no difference whether you live in a city or the countryside, when enough rains fall, either the drains back up or the ground gets so saturated, the water has nowhere to go but across the ground in a flood. In fact, even if you have a home in an area supposedly rated as a low flood risk, you can still get caught. Whether climate change is real, one thing does seem clear. We have had a lot more weather recently, and it has been causing damage to the structures of our homes and ruining the contents. So, no matter where you live, remember your home is the biggest single capital investment you make. Some coverage is better than no coverage.

Except, there's a strange plague sweeping the country. It seems insurance companies have decided to stop offering wind and water-related insurance cover. We could be cynical and say this is just capitalism at work but, when you can't get coverage yourself, you find that ever helpful mortgage holder comes up with a policy that brings tears to your eyes. In all this, there's one fact that's supposed to make this all bearable. There's always flooding coverage from FEMA.

Introduced in 1968, the Federal Flood Insurance Program is intended to give you cover so long as your community participates. This allows owners, renters, business operators and condominium unit owners the chance to get some cover. So what has to happen? There has to be a mapping exercise which captures where the local floodplain lies and in which direction the floodways run. Getting this information right requires input from hydrologists and other experts. But FEMA has been in financial difficulties and one of the economies it has made is in the mapping department. That's why many of its maps show floodplains and floodways as straight lines. No real money has been spent on matching the maps to the rise and fall of the local land. According to FEMA, it's all flat.

This failure creates genuine hardship. You may know your home is built on higher, well-drained ground but, when it comes to the cost of insurance, you're treated the same as people whose homes are most at risk at the bottom of the hill. Since commercial insurers use FEMA's maps, you can end up paying hundred more dollars than you should. It can be worth paying for an expert's report to appeal the mapping, but not everyone has the cash available to pay for that.

So always check the homeowners insurance quotes to see whether flood coverage is included and, if so, whether it's limited in ways that make it poor value. Talk to your neighbors and find out how their insurers define the area's risk level. If you have a well-organized area, there should be a person designated as your area's floodplain manager. Your local manager should be able to offer detail advice. To get the best value homeowners insurance, you really do need a community response, particularly if you want to appeal FEMA's maps.

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