Monday, May 26, 2008

Flood maps up ascension rates

New Ascension Parish flood maps released by FEMA place a larger area in the flood plain, raising insurance rates for many homeowners and slowing development in some spots.

Some homeowners are taking steps to get lower flood insurance rates.
One way is to prove the property is built up higher than the current “base flood elevation” requirement on the new maps, said William Barton, a mitigation outreach officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Denton, Texas.

Randy Anderson, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Mackey Co., hired a surveyor to check his home’s elevation. The survey showed his house, which is in a higher-risk zone in the new FEMA maps, was above the base flood elevation.
“It lowered my premium by three-fourths,” Anderson said.

The maps show what areas have at least a 1 percent probability of flooding in any given year, what is sometimes referred to as the 100-year flood plain. The new maps update ones issued in 1993.

Homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by FEMA. The agency urges people to consider buying flood insurance even if they are not in the 100-year flood plain.

The maps can greatly change flood insurance rates for a homeowner, said Andy Redpath of Baton Rouge Insurance Agency. As a general example, someone who once paid $330 annually for coverage (excluding contents) on a $250,000 home could see that rise to $778 if the property is now considered to be in the flood plain, he said.
Insurance rates can be lowered in other ways, though that generally means reductions in coverage.

Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said he had to “renegotiate” the flood insurance on his St. Amant home.

“My rate had gone from $300 to $1,000 a year,” he said. “I have never flooded, so I took off the contents of the house and raised my deductible to $5,000.”

Those moves, he said, lowered his annual rate to about $600. He said he also plans to have a survey done to check the elevation of his home.

“I suggest residents get an elevation shot and take the contents out and increase their deductible if they think they are above the flood plain,” he said. “They can save some money.”

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