Hank Investigates: Flood insurance - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Hank Investigates: Flood insurance

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Deep down in Lauren's Dorchester basement--there’s laundry and old paint cans and a bunch of other stuff--but what there isn't--and never has been--is a flood.


“Has this basement ever had water in it?”

Lauren Stevens, Homeowner

“No, never.”

Even in March when the state was deluged with record rainfall--no water in Lauren's basement.

Lauren Stevens, Homeowner


So that’s why she was baffled when she got this letter from her bank--saying the federal government has declared her house in the special flood hazard area.--and as a result, she's now got to buy flood insurance. It'll cost thousands of dollars a year.

Lauren Stevens, Homeowner

“I panicked!”

And our investigation found letters like Lauren's will soon go out to thousands of Massachusetts homeowners. After years of using outmoded paper maps to predict which areas are most susceptible to flooding disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency just created brand new digital ones for most of Massachusetts. And now--the new FEMA maps are adding new homes to the high risk list. But we found they don't always belong there.


“So your maps could be wrong.”

Michael Goetz, FEMA

“They’re wrong to the extent---again it’s our best representation of where that line falls based on their info that we have available.”

Richard Cleary's house of Brookford Street was far from the shaded flood zone on the old maps. But to his dismay, on the new ones, it’s in the blue.


“Has your house ever been flooded?”

Richard Cleary, Homeowner

“No, nor has this street been flooded in 90 years.”

Town officials in Arlington thought maps there were wrong, too. They knew these homes on the far side of Spy Pond were much higher than the water would ever come.


“So these people should not be in the flood zone.”

Mike Rademacher, Arlington DPW

“Correct. These folks on this side should not be.”

But FEMA warns just because a house hasn't flooded in the past, doesn't mean it won't flood in the future.

Michael Goetz, FEMA

"What we are trying to do with our program is identify risk."

But FEMA admits the new maps are not exact--and the flood zone, marked here in red, could be off! Problem is--if they've got your house wrong--it's up to you to figure that out and up to you to tell them.

Michael Goetz, FEMA

"If they can provide that more accurate information to us, we'll very willingly amend the map or revise the map.

So instead of getting mad, Richard Cleary and officials in the town of Arlington got: surveyors.

Richard's results show his house is high enough to be exempt

RIchard Cleary, Homeowner

"He found that that federal map was all wrong."

Arlington officials also found these homes were higher than the federal flood level--

and now are asking the feds to change the maps.

Mike Rademacher, Arlington DPW

"The goal was to make sure the maps are accurate and that people are fairly buying flood insurance."

Is your home high risk? If you want to check, new maps will be in local town halls..and on line.

Click here for more information on how to appeal and how to buy flood insurance.

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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