Flood map confusion: October surprise for thousands in county?

More than 50,000 Palm Beach County properties will be reclassified as being in or touching flood zones in October, and a map made available this week on a county website lets homeowners look up their homes.

But not everyone viewing the map is getting a clear message about whether costs for particular homes are going up, particularly in western and central Palm Beach County.

At stake are potential increases of hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to insure homes.

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A Wellington homeowner noted a property currently classified as relatively low risk now sees a pending designation of “special flood hazard area” in October. Does that mean simply a piece of the yard is in or touches a flood zone, or that a lender could now require flood insurance for the entire house?

An explanation on the map says: “Just because a Special Flood Hazard Area touches your property, that does not necessarily mean your structure is located within the flood zone.” That might not shine as a beacon of clarity for many homeowners concerned about the practical effects: whether they have to buy flood insurance and, even if they choose it voluntarily, at what cost.

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Check with your bank or mortgage holder and insurance agent before jumping to conclusions, county officials advised.

“Just because your property touches a special flood hazard area does not mean your house is in a special flood zone and you have to pay more for insurance,” said Doug Wise, county floodplain administrator.

Wise said 50,839 Palm Beach County parcels are moving to higher-risk flood zones, 45,640 are coming out and 36,983 are staying in.

County officials note it’s the first time since 1992 that flood maps have been revised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Typical homeowner policies do not cover floods. Flood insurance must be purchased separately. Most policies come from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, though private agents can arrange purchase and some private insurance companies now offer flood policies of their own.

The stakes can be serious for homeowners barely making ends meet. Banks can make consumers pay for costly “force placed” flood insurance if they don’t buy it on their own. Homes can be placed at risk of foreclosure if owners can’t keep up.

Meanwhile, Congress is working on bills to set the rules for what homeowners pay as the flood program comes up for reauthorization Sept. 30.

To look at the Palm Beach County map, visit:

 http://maps.co.palm-beach.fl.us/cwgis/?app=floodzones

Type in a property address in the bar in the upper left corner.

 

 

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