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Queens Chronicle

Flood insurance recommended for every homeowner

Even those not at high risk should consider coverage, experts say

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Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:17 am, Thu Jan 31, 2013.

So your home did not get flooded during Hurricane Sandy? You’re told you are not in a flood zone? Well, maybe you should think about flood insurance anyway.

Before Sandy, many Howard Beach residents who inquired about flood insurance and were not required to get it were told they wouldn’t need it. Except for Hamilton Beach and certain spots near the water, Howard Beach was not considered a major flood zone.

Sandy proved otherwise. The entire neighborhood experienced some level of flooding, stemming from complete destruction of some homes in Hamilton Beach to minor basement and garage flooding in Lindenwood.

Flood insurance comes from the federal government as part of the National Flood Insurance Program created in 1968 after few private insurance companies sold insurance to cover floods. The industry saw selling flood insurance an unacceptable risk because floods happened in so few areas, there wasn’t a wide enough population in order to absorb the cost of a catastrophic flood.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency strongly advises that every homeowner get flood insurance and some lenders require it for customers with mortgages.

Laura Marino, a licensed broker who runs the Marino Insurance Agency in Richmond Hill, said those who live in Howard Beach and the Rockaways must have flood insurance and agreed that everyone, even those not in a flood zone, should invest in a policy.

“Everyone should get flood insurance,” she said. “Floods are not covered by homeowner’s insurance. It is a separate policy and it is underwritten by FEMA.”

Marino’s own home was damaged by Sandy’s storm surge in October. She said FEMA, which identifies flood risk zones, will redraw its maps to make all of Howard Beach a flood zone. Previously, the section of “New” Howard Beach, east of Cross Bay Boulevard, was not considered an area with a high risk for flooding.

Marino said regulations from FEMA are changing: If you received money from the agency after Sandy, you are likely going to have to get flood insurance.

“FEMA is now requiring everyone that has ever gotten paid by them to get flood insurance,” she explained. “Homeowners should check with FEMA to see if it’s required if they received money from them.”

Most homeowners in Howard Beach who had mortgages were forced to get flood insurance as part of their contracts with the lenders, but many people who live in the areas hit by Sandy’s storm surge and have paid off their homes or rent did not have a policy. A number of residents complained at a town hall meeting in November that they were told they did not need flood insurance when they inquired about it after homes in Hamilton Beach experienced flooding in 2011.

“Right now, the rates are dirt cheap,” Marino said. “Right now, it’s the best time to buy.”

Marino’s agency, which was run by her father Anthony Marino until he retired 15 years ago, sells flood insurance policies to anyone in the area who is interested.

“We are a one-stop insurance shop,” she said.

The agency is located at 116-17 Atlantic Ave. and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays by appointment only.

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