If last week’s floods forced you to rip out sheetrock, bring in industrial-strength heaters to dry out the excess moisture, and move to the upstairs of the house or to a fleabag motel, be prepared for another potential frontal-lobe ache:
Higher flood insurance premiums through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Again.
“Basically, the same people are filing claims for a second time,” says Peter Zografos, an insurance agent at Farmers Insurance on West Bellfort. “FEMA is increasing rates regardless. Some of these homeowners may have to be insured directly with the National Flood Insurance Program due to repetitive claims, [and] basically will be charged more for too many flood claims.”
More people than ever will be filing claims. According to a report released yesterday by the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, last week’s storms flooded more than 6,700 Harris County homes, an incredible number considering that 3,015 homes flooded during the Memorial Day 2015 storms.
In unincorporated Harris County alone, 3,514 homes took in floodwater, according to a Harris County Public Engineering Department survey that took place over the weekend. The floods caused $56 million in damages to residential and commercial properties in unincorporated Harris County, writes Francisco Sanchez, a public information officer for the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
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Zografos’s coverage area focuses on Meyerland and the surrounding areas that flooded for the second time in 11 months. Though (pricier) flood insurance can help a homeowner recover the losses, what good is it if a home remains in the danger zone for flooding?
“I have never seen as many floods as this…I am pretty positive Meyerland will flood again,” says Zografos, who grew up near Meyerland and lives near the flood-prone neighborhood. For one high-risk residential property, the current going rate for FEMA’s flood insurance is $779 a year, according to a FloodSmart.gov search. Last year, some homeowners saw a $100 annual increase in their policies.
“[Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner] is talking about fixing it, but you know how that works. It can take up to three years or longer,” adds Zografos.
Late in the day on Monday, President Barack Obama issued disaster declarations for Harris, Fayette, Parker and Grimes counties, paving the way for up to $33,000 in FEMA grants for individual homeowners who were affected by last week's flood. But there's a crazy catch: Homeowners who are already covered under FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program can't capture any of the grant monies.