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Which Syracuse Homeowners in New Flood Zone Will Need Flood Insurance? It Depends

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Chris Bolt
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WAER News

Hundreds of homeowners along Onondaga Creek on Syracuse’s south side could be required to purchase expensive flood insurance once new FEMA flood maps take effect November 4th.  WAER News checked in with one of the few agencies in town that provides flood insurance to find out what’s involved.  With 876 properties set to be added to the flood zone, you’d think Ellis Moreland and Ellis would be getting a steady stream of phone calls.  Vice President Rhonda Cabrinha says that's not the case.

"We're getting a couple of inquiries, but not as many as you would anticipate," she said.

Cabrinha can only speculate why…some may be avoiding the issue or haven’t received notification.  She says homeowners don’t have to purchase flood insurance unless they have a mortgage and the bank requires it.  Cabrinha says FEMA sets the premiums, which vary widely, depending on location, the amount of insurance, and other factors.

"We have some clients that have premiums as low as $400," Cabrinha said.  "And then we have clients where there premiums are $5,500."

Cabrinha estimates they have about 50 clients with flood insurance, which the firm administers through FEMA.  She's surprised there aren't more.

"There are many people that are in a flood hazard, but for some reason, their mortgage companies are not requiring them to have it," Cabrinha said.   "And because flood insurance is so expensive, many people just opt not to have it and they take their chances."

That's something she doesn’t recommend given claims connected to major flooding events.

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Credit dec.ny.gov
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"I had a couple of claims in the southern tier when that flooded a few years ago," Cabrinha recalled.  "They were glad that they did have the flood insurance.  I also had some clients on Oneida Lake when that flooded 10 or 15 years ago. So, it does happen."

Cabrinha has found many agencies don’t want to take on flood insurance policies, mainly because they’re ultimately administered by FEMA.

"Some companies have chosen to get out of writing the policies for the federal government because they really don't settle the claims,"  Cabrinha said.  "They feel they'll  get a bad reputation if people aren't happy with the settlement of the claims or how long it takes to settle a flood claim because the flood claims are so widespread.  There's so much damage in one area, that it's hard for them to adjust the claims in a timely manner."

Cabrinha suggests affected homeowners lock-in their flood insurance rates now, because they’re likely to jump once the new flood maps take effect November 4th.