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Experts: Get flood insurance — now

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Lock it in.

An advocacy group is urging residents around the Jamaica Bay inlet to purchase flood insurance before new flood zones take effect in order to lock in rates and avoid skyrocketing premiums.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency increased flood insurance rates in April as part of a post-Sandy overhaul that expanded flood zones, leaving many Southern Brooklyn residents in higher-risk areas with higher premiums. But thanks to a grandfathering clause, homeowners who purchase insurance before the new maps go into effect can retain their pre-Sandy risk rating.

A representative from Neighborhood Housing Services encourages homeowners to see where they fall on the new maps — expected to take effect late 2016 or early 2017 — and to act quickly if their risk rating is going to change.

“In terms of the insurance program and establishing the cost of a policy, they are still using the 1983 map to determine rating zones, and they will continue to do that until the new maps are adopted,” said Elizabeth Malone. “If [homeowners] purchase now, they will be able to take that rating once the new maps are adopted.”

Malone says that purchasing now rather than later could spare homeowners a rate increase of as much as 18 percent more than their previous premiums.

“We need people to face up on this, so they don’t face a financial hit,” she said. “Which they won’t if they act now.”

The grandfathering policy applies only to homeowners who are currently in a flood risk zone, however. Those finding themselves inside of a flood zone for the first time with the adoption of the new maps will be subject to the cost for their new risk zone.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that all homeowners check the new maps to assess their risk and purchase an insurance policy if they find themselves in a newly drawn flood zone.

“For folks newly mapped in, it’s not critical to buy today or tomorrow but I would still recommend it,” said agency specialist Andrew Martin. “For folks already in the flood plane, they should go ahead and buy to make sure they keep their current risk rating so they will be grandfathered to that rating.”

Martin says that the grandfathering policy, a feature of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, is intended to prevent cash-strapped homeowners from resisting purchasing an insurance policy that would greatly benefit them.

“Congress has realized that having folks transfer the risk through the purchase of insurance is better than folks doing nothing,” he said.

See how the new flood zones compare to the old ones at floodhelpny.org.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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