Homeowners who have recently been affected by flood map changes may be eligible for a new flood insurance option that can provide temporary financial relief. In 2003, more than 70 percent of the flood maps (known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs) in the United States were at least 10 years old and many no longer reflect current flood hazards. Congress passed a law and appropriated funds that directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create the five-year Flood Map Modernization Program — a program dedicated to using current data and technology to update flood maps nationwide. Since then, communities across the country have been experiencing flood map changes. With the Flood Map Modernization Program — and now Risk MAP — providing updated FIRMs, communities are gaining a better understanding of their real flood risk. In some cases, this means areas in a community previously thought to be at a moderate-to-low-risk for flooding are now being accurately identified as high-risk and designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). This increased risk of flooding is real and many property owners now find themselves required by lenders to purchase flood insurance. To help reduce costs, property owners can now purchase the low-cost Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) during the two years following a map revision. However, at the end of the two-year eligibility period, the PRP would have to be rewritten as a higher premium standard-rated policy at each subsequent renewal. While the PRP premiums are not permanently available, policies converted from a PRP to a standard-rated policy will be eligible for grandfathering using the lower risk zone reflected on a previous map. FEMA recognizes the financial hardship that a SFHA may place on consumers; therefore, it is extending the eligibility period for PRPs starting Jan. 1, 2011.

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