Another year for flood insurance
Today is the first day of a brand new year a time to make resolutions, plans for the year ahead and reflect on the year past. Unfortunately not everyone is as introspective as you and I may be, especially the people who are making the laws.
Last month Congress adjourned for the year without agreeing on any of the proposed legislation that would address the outrageous flood insurance premium hikes many homeowners are just beginning to experience. Even though coastal homeowner’s awareness of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was signed into law by the President in July 2012 it was only this past October when the real impact was felt by homeowners along the coast. At that time, premiums were increased for second homeowners, commercial properties and properties with multiple flood related insurance claims. However, starting in October 2014, many of the remaining millions of homeowners who live in flood plains especially, if their home was built before 1974 or built below base flood line elevation, will also be facing higher premiums. The plan is for premiums to accelerate for the next five years until the rates represent an accurate actuarial risk.
Vern Buchanan is one of the leaders in Congress working on bills to delay the implementation of the law. In June the House did pass a bipartisan bill which would delay some of the rate increases, but it did not get through the Senate. The bill that appears to be the most popular in Congress would freeze everything for four years so an affordability study could be conducted in an effort to ease into amending the current Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.
In theory the bill is a good piece of legislation with good intentions, but it was passed without any real thought to the consequences. The National Flood Insurance program dates back to the 1960s and was created to encourage homeowners to buy flood insurance by subsidizing premiums, which worked great until Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy hit. Now the government wants to reduce their debt and exposure in the event of future coastal flooding events, certainly a good idea with unfortunately a very bad execution.
State Senator Jeff Brandes, from St. Petersburg, introduced legislation that would offer homeowners alternatives to the National Flood Insurance Program by establishing new governing statutes in residential surplus insurance lines allowing private insurers to provide more options for flood insurance coverage. In October, Tampa Choice Property & Causality Insurance did announce that it plans to enter the Florida market to help provide rate relief to homeowners. This is really the way flood insurance should be handled going forward, but there should be a plan to integrate the private insurance market into the existing federal one that would not be as catastrophic to homeowners and negativity impact property values.
Florida homeowners have a tremendous stake in the outcome of the flood insurance act, since we hold the largest number of flood insurance policies in the country totaling two million. In addition, in spite of our long coastline Florida lags behind Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas in numbers of claims. Again, this would be a good time to contact your representatives in Congress and the Senate to let them know we need a more thoughtful approach to changes in flood insurance.
Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2014, with sunny skies, no hurricanes and no floods.