To those who live near a river, creek, pond or any other body of water in Fulton County, be forewarned.
Tuesday could be your last day to save a bundle on flood insurance.
On Wednesday, new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps officially take effect for Fulton, reclassifying more than 3,000 properties as being at high-risk for flooding. It’s part of a massive remapping project in counties and cities across the state, with FEMA and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources reassessing flood risk along a 107-mile area of the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin.
The new flood risk maps for Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties went into effect in the spring. The updated maps are especially important for Cobb, where seven days of rainfall four years ago led to historic flooding not seen in hundreds of years.
If any part of a house — the structure, not the property — now falls inside a so-called high-risk flood hazard area, flood insurance becomes federally required by a mortgage lender. At worst, a homeowner who now carries no flood insurance could be forced to pay up to $10,000 a year, according to an agent.
“The premiums could go astronomically high,” said Rod Hall, a Cobb County-based flood insurance specialist.
Insurance experts say there’s a way around that. Buy a policy before the maps go into effect, and you could still pay a low-risk rate, which would be hundreds of dollars rather than thousands of dollars, with the low-risk designation locked in for at least another year.
At play are complex intricacies of insurance rules and regulations, along with a new federal law going into effect Oct. 1, said Bruce Bender, an Arizona-based flood insurance expert and consultant.
“You don’t want to wait until a lender calls you and says, ‘Hey, you have to do this,’” Bender said. “I would strongly encourage people to go out and get the coverage now, especially if the flood risk has increased.”
Hall said savvy agents might be able to help homeowners not pay an exorbitant rate, even after the maps take effect. Darryl Landfried’s home on Shallowford Road is about 200 feet from a creek, and Cobb’s new maps put the house in a high-risk flood zone. He didn’t buy a policy before the map took effect. But, since his house was built before Cobb’s first flood map came out, he managed to find a policy for about $1,500 rather than the $8,000 to $10,000 he could have paid.
Landfried said he’d have been irked to pay any more, considering he only keeps a tractor, yard tools, tires and other assorted junk and supplies in his basement garage, which takes up the bottom level of the house.
“There’s nothing in that basement, for me at least, that would be worth the premium of $8,000 to $10,000,” he said. “I feel bad for those that are going to get blindsided by an insurance policy.”