There's Another Disaster Looming for Harvey Victims

Only 2 in 10 in the worst areas have flood insurance
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2017 1:08 PM CDT
There's Another Disaster Looming for Harvey Victims
A man removes drywall from a home damaged by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey Wednesday in Houston.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The math isn't pretty: An official in Harris County, Texas, estimated Wednesday that Harvey has destroyed up to 40,000 homes in the Houston area, reports ABC News. Countless others have lesser damage. Now balance those figures with another: Only 2 in 10 homeowners in the hardest-hit areas have flood insurance, according to a Washington Post analysis. It's all adding up to a devastating financial toll for homeowners. Details:

  • $555 a year: The average annual premium for flood insurance in Harris County is $555 this year, and the AP reports that more and more homeowners had opted to skip it. The percentage of those covered dropped 9% in Harris County alone over the last five years, and the plummet is even greater in certain parts of the county. One critic blames FEMA for not urging homeowners to recognize the need.

  • Out $30,000: One homeowner on the outskirts of Houston figured he was safe without flood insurance when he moved in several years ago, because he wasn't in a flood plain and neighbors couldn't ever remember seeing water in the street. He tells the AP that the decision will now cost him about $30,000.
  • The rules: Only those who live in a designated "100-year floodplain" and who have a federally backed mortgage (or a stricter private lender) are required to get flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, explains Quartz. (The post adds that the data the government uses to designate flood zones can be years out of date.) It's people outside such zones who are out of luck if they gambled on skipping—or perhaps mistakenly thought they were covered.
  • A loophole: Normal home insurance covers wind damage. Therefore, those without flood insurance might be able to collect if they can show that their home sustained water damage after the roof was blown off or windows blown out, per a separate AP story.
  • Ominous quote: "There are some early indications that this is going to have an exceptionally large impact on the number of people who are totally uninsured," says an insurance expert at accounting firm Deloitte, per Quartz. These people can get some federal relief, perhaps through low-interest loans, but a second loan on top of the mortgage might not be a feasible option for many homeowners.
  • A new law: A law that goes into effect on Friday across Texas makes it more difficult for homeowners to sue insurers in a dispute, reports CBS News. Gov. Greg Abbott says it's no cause for concern for homeowners with valid claims, though the Dallas Morning News reports that attorneys are urging people to get their claims in before Friday. Snopes has more details on House Bill 1774, noting that some wild claims now circulating on social media about the measure are lacking context.
(More Hurricane Harvey stories.)

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