Woman forced to by flood insurance

September 2, 2009 7:07:13 PM PDT
If you live in a flood zone, you buy flood insurance to protect your home. But what happens if you are ordered to buy flood insurance that you don't even need? That's what happened to a Bay Area woman.

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If there's a safe place to run to in a flood, it would probably be this woman's property. But nobody believed her, and that almost cost her a lot of money.

Joan Long sits on top of the world, or at least on top of San Rafael. Her house is perched on the crest of a big hill. From the top, Joan looks down onto rooftops and treetops and city streets below.

That's why it seemed odd when she got this notice from her lender. Bank of America said Joan had to pay $1,011 for flood insurance because it said -- she lives in a flood zone.

"We're not in a flood zone. We're on top of a hill and in fact if there were floods here in San Rafael, the Bank of America, the Wells Fargo, the Town Hall, all central San Rafael would be flooded and we'd still be sitting high and dry on top of the hill," said Long.

So Long went to the bank and explained that rainwater runs down this hill, not up.

"We said look there has been some mistake and the young man there said, oh I can't help you there," said Long. "He more or less shooed us out."

The bank notice was firm. It said Long's property is in a federally designated flood zone and since the bank is federally insured, it is legally required to make sure Long is covered by flood insurance.

She checked the FEMA map for herself and it confirmed her belief that she is indeed high and dry.

"It showed we were not on the flood zone but it was a very difficult map to read," said Long.

And the bank wouldn't budge. In fact, it went ahead and took $1,011 from her bank account and bought her a flood policy.

"I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall and i didn't know where to turn, then I remembered that program," said Long.

She remembered 7 On Your Side. She called us and we checked out the flood maps for ourselves, at the Marin County Department of Public Works.

They are hard to read but one thing's clear -- the blue dots mean flood zone, and Long's house isn't there. It's smack in the middle of the safe zone in solid gray.

We pointed this out to Bank of America and the bank checked for itself. Pretty soon, Long had her money back.

"I feel like a different person since 7 On Your Side took care of my problem," she said.

Bank of America said the mistake happened because Long's address is very similar to another address which is in a flood zone. The bank corrected the mistake, and refunded her money.

"I'm so happy for 7 On Your Side coming to my aid, I wanted to cry I was so relieved," she said.

Flood maps for parts of the Bay Area were recently updated by FEMA. The agency says some properties are newly designated as being in a flood zone. If that's you, your mortgage lender will require flood insurance.

Related Link: Flood insurance information

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