HOUSTON - Thousands of Houston area homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey may not qualify for FEMA disaster assistance again when the next big storm hits.
FEMA issued Group Flood Insurance Policies to nearly 7000 homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey for three years. But FEMA rules require those homeowners and renters to buy their own flood insurance after that. If they don't by the October 24th deadline, FEMA may not repair the properties again when the next disaster strikes.
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 9: Carla and Gil Parks have a moment with each other inside their travel trailer on August 9, 2018 in Houston, Tx. Gil and Carla Parks along with other residents in the Bear Creek Village have not been able to return to their hom
"More likely than not, many of these homes just were not in a flood zone," recalls Camille Garcia with the Insurance Council of Texas. "So they never really thought they needed flood insurance." FEMA issued Group Flood Insurance Policies to 6690 Texas homes damaged by Harvey to protect them from any more floods for three years. The October 24 deadline is fast approaching, and the Insurance Council of Texas estimates only 335 of those homes now have their own flood insurance in place.
"You run the risk FEMA will not be there to offer that kind of disaster assistance," said Garcia.
Despite Houston's history of flooding, Garcia says only 17 percent of homes have flood insurance. RAND Corporation research reveals many people incorrectly believe flood coverage is included in homeowner's insurance, or that they don't need it because they don't live in a designated flood zone.
"As we see construction around us, as we see land around us, that designated flood zone can be outdated. So, therefore, it's always best to error on the side of caution," said Garcia.
For many families currently facing a job loss, buying flood insurance right now may seem impossible. But Garcia suggests owners may be able to cut costs on their homeowner's insurance. "Maybe there's something in your homeowner's policy you can reduce, you can change, increase your deductible, so that way the premiums won't be so astronomical," said Garcia.
Homeowners and renters can buy flood insurance through FEMA or private insurance carriers. Shop around for the best rates.
The National Flood Insurance Program offers insurance agent referrals at 800-427-4661. For more information regarding the Group Flood Insurance program or flood insurance in general, call the NFIP Direct at 800-638-6620, option number 2.