Some Southern California property owners were surprised to learn they need flood insurance.
The property owners claim they are being forced to buy flood insurance because the new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps say they are in a high-risk flood area. Some owners have formed groups to challenge the maps, which were redrawn by FEMA to identify areas that might flood in a so-called 100-year storm.
In some cases, local governments have taken up the property owners' fight. The municipalities are paying for studies to challenge FEMA's maps, and in a few cases, the agency has backed down, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The federal government has informed property owners in more than 150 cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties about the new requirement. Most of the properties are near rivers, creeks, dams or low-lying areas.
Premiums range from $500 to more than $1,700 a year. Insurance is mandatory for anyone with a federally backed mortgage, and lenders will typically buy policies, sometimes at a higher cost, for property owners who fail to do so on their own, according to The Times.
Property owners in some areas, including parts of South Los Angeles, have already started paying higher premiums, The Times reported. Homeowners elsewhere in the region expect the new mandate to take effect early this year.
FEMA officials call the process a collaborative one. A FEMA spokesman told the Times that local entities are allowed to point out errors, and cities and counties can provide avenues for property owners to address issues.