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Should FEMA Pay for Home Buyouts Outside of the 100-Year Flood Plains?

The answer to “Where does responsibility lie?” is the solution that many litigation processes aim to answer. If a person sues someone else for car accident damages, the court must hear the facts and ultimately determine where responsibility lies before it can make judgements concerning the outcome. If a worker sues his employer for negligence, the court must determine if responsibility can be placed on the corporation for their hand in causing the employee harm. Similar to these scenarios, the prominence of the answer to this question weighs heavily on the ongoing litigations between Houston homeowners and insurance carriers. However, for some homeowners, the facts show that an outside entity may be responsible for their insurance nightmare.

How the Government Failed to Protect Homeowners

In this article, there are three maps of Harris County detailing damages that have resulted from past hurricanes. The maps also show where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has claimed that the land is part of the “100-year” plan. FEMA is a governmental institution that plans against and deals with the aftermath of emergencies. While it is FEMA’s job to create accurate flood maps, there are two main issues with the Harris County map.

Easily recognized when using the helpful maps, there are thousands of dark blue dots all across the county. Each of these blue dots represent a home that was flooded outside of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 100-year flood zone. As anyone can see, the blue dots are rampant, which means that the flood zones according to the FEMA maps are inaccurate at best. If the flood zones were more accurate, there would be more light blue dots on the map. This means that FEMA is significantly inaccurate in their reporting of the Harris County areas that are at risk of flooding.

The other issue revealed by the maps is that within a 17-year period, there have been four “100-year” storms that have struck Harris County. FEMA created the flood plain with a probability in mind. The idea of the “100-year flood zones” is that these areas have the probability to flood once every 100 years. So, all the light blue dots across the maps represents areas that have flooded within a “100-year zone.”

When looking at only one of the represented maps, there is no problem. The issue lies in the fact that some of these light blue dots are represented on every map of “flooded structures.” This means that within 17 years, these homes have flooded 4 times. While FEMA says these homes are only at a 1% chance of flooding, in reality, if accounting for only the past 17 years, they have a 23% chance of flooding— meaning the flood maps have significant inaccuracies in the stated chances of Harris County flooding.

FEMA Is Partially Responsible for Homes Being Flooded

The FEMA flood zone areas are not well defined, and the chance of Harris County flooding seems to be misrepresented. Both of these issues are problems on their own, but truthfully, they point to deeper complications. The price of flood insurance for a home in Harris County is directly related to its FEMA flood zone designation. If the home is considered “high-risk,” insurance will be more expensive and the inverse is also true. FEMA flood zones actually affect a couple of home owning aspects:

  • Insurance prices
  • The flood risk designation of a home
  • Government subsidies for living in a “high flood risk area"

The focus of this list is the flood risk designation for a home. If a home is designated as a high flood risk, someone may be unwilling to buy it on the premise that it could be destroyed in a flood. However, FEMA has incorrectly designated homes as "low flood risks" when, in reality, these homes have been flooded 4 times in the last 17 years. If a home floods at an average of once every four years, it seems incredibly irresponsible to say that it is a "low flood risk". For Harris County residents, the inaccurate designations of homes outside of 100-year flood plain areas as “low flood risks” is arguably enough reason for the government to be deemed partially responsible for a home owner's decision to buy a home that is now flooded. Homeowners could argue they were led to believe their home was safe from flooding when, in actuality, recent floods have proven otherwise, and the government has done nothing about it. If this does reach courts, judges should ponder if "FEMA should pay for home buyouts if they are outside of the 100-year flood plain?”

Arnold & Itkin Fights to Protect the Rights of Homeowners

Arnold & Itkin is committed to fighting against FEMA in trying to secure just payments for Houston citizens who have lost everything. We can stop FEMA from undercutting your payments and hold them responsible to their claims. If you need help against FEMA and want to keep them accountable, contact our professional insurance claim attorneys now.

Call (888) 400-2101 to obtain a free consultation!