For people who live here on the coast and here on lakes, paradise for some, it's likely expected they'll have to pay for flood insurance if they have a mortgage. It’s an additional cost above home insurance.
But can the same be said for people who live in urban and suburban settings near creeks and streams?
Homeowner, Ben Karanja said, "I sometimes see people come and try and fish here."
After living here for seven years near Buck Creek in this Shelby County neighborhood, Karanja was told this year he had to pay for flood insurance.
Karanja admits there are days the water comes into his backyard when the creek overflows, but it never has come very close to the house. His mortgage company told him flood insurance, automatically added to his monthly payment, would total $1400 a year. His response?
Karanja said, "That was too much money for me. I thought I can't afford that, too much."
So Karanja shopped around. He went to the company that insures his vehicles and discovered a policy that would only cost him $400 a year.
Karanja said, "The other 1400 from the other insurance would only cover the structure. But this other one includes other things and it's cheaper so I was happy."
But not all flood insurance stories have happy endings.
FEMA Civil Engineer, Kristen Martinenza said, "Everyone is at risk, it's just at different levels."
Martinenza is a FEMA Civil Engineer who told me with new technology, FEMA can help homeowners and communities discover their flood risk and stay safe.
The agency is on a five year, one billion dollar mission to map flood zones across the US. It's been more than 30 years since the last flood maps were made.
Martinenza said, "It's not a matter of that we're putting them in a flood plain, we're just now better showing they're location and they're actual risk."
According to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, a partner with FEMA on the remapping project, 1100 structures in Shelby County have been added to what's called the Special Flood Hazard Area. Nearly 2800 remain in the flood zone and 4500 have been removed.
There are those we've interviewed who blame the increased insurance rates and the remapping project on the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 also known as BW-12.
FEMA’s website states that Act was designed to make FEMA's 45-year-old program more financially stable, which in some cases may mean flood insurance premium rate increases for policyholders over time, rising at 20% a year.
FEMA officials dispute that claim, saying the remapping project, started before the Act passed, isn't tied to BW-12.
One local realtor told me a home in a flood zone can hurt sales like it did for this one, when it was discovered, it was in the flood zone and flood insurance would be several thousand dollars a year.
Keller-Williams Realtor, David Black said, "Being in a flood plain, if you own a home, can be a huge negative."
Due to the negatively that can be associated with a home in a flood plain, we agreed not to identify where this neighborhood is.
Black represented the buyers who were going to purchase this home, but after learning about the high flood insurance policy, chose to rent it instead.
Black said, "Many homeowners who are in flood plains realize there's probably little if anything they can do to be removed from that flood plain. That's a very low likelihood of that happening."
And the person who may determine if they're in a flood zone is a surveyor like Jason Bailey who owns Bailey Flood Group. Since FEMA released remapped zones in February his business has gone up.
Bailey Flood Group Owner, Jason Bailey said, "A lot of them are saying, ‘my house has never flooded, why am I in a flood zone now’."
Due to the licensing group for Alabama surveyors, surveyors are prohibited from telling you how much a survey will cost until they've been chosen for the work. But Bailey told me the work by a surveyor to do the measurements and crunch the numbers to determine how far a finished floor is above or below FEMA's base elevation rate, or the level of flooding for a home, can range between $500 and $2000. The cost depends on the size of the house and the time it'll take to finish the survey.
Once it's done, an elevation certificate like this one can be issued and is then provided to someone like Lee Harper.
Trammel, Harper and Williams Office Manager, Lee Harper said, "Up here, Birmingham, suburbs, people are not used to dealing with flood insurance."
An insurance broker, Harper has also seen a lot more business due to FEMA’s remapping project. He said more are calling about flood insurance, a program he calls convoluted.
Harper said, "And each case is different. Anytime you're dealing with FEMA, each case is difficult."
Take this neighborhood for example. Karanja's home is in a cul-de-sac, closest to Buck Creek. As we told you earlier, he found flood insurance for $400. That home where the sale fell through, farther away from the creek, but also in Karanja's neighborhood, flood insurance was going to be several thousand dollars.
According to Bailey, the finished floor of a home varies per house. Also, the base elevation rate determined by FEMA, can vary by home, making fixed rates impossible and causing flood insurance rates to vary homeowner to homeowner.
But homeowners can do their homework, like Karanja did, shopping for better flood insurance prices and perhaps hiring a surveyor who will help homeowners determine how much they'll have to pay in flood insurance, if anything at all.
If you find yourself in need of flood insurance, the folks at Trammel, Harper and Williams suggest you combine home insurance and flood insurance policies with one insurer. If something were to happen, for example a blown off roof plus water damage inside your home, it'll be easier to determine damage and repair reimbursement.
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