Flood victims say they’re forced to pay thousands by FEMA in premiums this year

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Many people still rebuilding from the October floods received a letter last week that some call unreasonable.

Joyce Thompson says she and several neighbors got a letter in the mail from FEMA last Thursday stating their premiums had changed.

Last year Thompson says she paid $347 for her premium, but this year it’s now $4,133.

“I literally thought I was going to have a heart attack Thursday when I opened up my mail and this is what I saw,” said Thompson.

News13 reached out to FEMA to see why people are now having to pay thousands of dollars more. They say they’re making changes to the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Those are maps show the flood risks in our communities, but for people like Thompson, that answer isn’t good enough.

“They can say they’ve reevaluated the elevation, but the elevation of my yard has not changed, I’m still in the exact spot that I was. My house has not changed,” said Thompson.

According to FEMA, flood risks change over time because of things like water flow, drainage patterns, and natural forces like the most recent flood.

These changes mean the agency must revise the flood maps and insurance policies for homeowners, especially in high-risk flood areas.

FEMA representatives say you can work to reduce your rates by doing the following:

  • Mitigate. One way to reduce your rate is to reduce your risk, because premiums are based on risk. For example, you can fill in a basement or install flood vents in the crawl space beneath the lowest level of your building, which helps reduce the chance that the foundation of your building will be displaced during a flood, and lowers your premium. When remodeling or rebuilding, you can consider elevating your entire structure. Something as simple as raising heating and cooling systems, water heaters, the electrical panel, and other mechanical items so that they are less likely to be damaged or destroyed in a flood may offer some premium savings.
  • Encourage community action. You can encourage your community to participate in the Community Rating Service (CRS),if it doesn’t already. CRS is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes communities for implementing floodplain management practices that exceed the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) minimum requirements. In exchange for a community’sproactive efforts to reduce flood risk, policyholders can receive reduced flood insurance premiums. For more information,visit gov/CRS.
  • Apply for a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). FIRMs are developed to a scale that is useful for community officials, lenders, and insurance professionals, but not every rise in terrain can be depicted at this scale. If you think your building is imprecisely mapped as being in the floodplain, FEMA provides a process to allow property owners to request a more precise flood zone designation.Two types of LOMCs are Letters of Map Amendment (LOMAs) and Letters of Map Revision-Fill (LOMR-Fs). A LOMA is usually issued because a property has been mapped as being in the floodplain, but is actually on naturally high ground. A LOMR-F is for a property that is now elevated above the BFE by the placement of fill. For more information on filing a LOMA or LOMR-F, visitgov/letter-map-amendment-letter-map-revision-based-fill-process.
  • Consider a higher deductible. Just as with automobile or homeowners insurance, increasing your deductible—an amount you pay out of your pocket to cover a claim before coverage is applied—will lower your premium. A new $10,000 deductible, available to homeowners as of April 1, 2015, will result in up to a 40 percent discount from the base premium. However, using the maximum deductible might not be appropriate in every financial circumstance and might not be allowed by lenders to meet mandatory purchase requirements.

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