Disaster Looms for Pinellas County with Dramatic Increases in Flood Insurance
*Updated October 23, 2013 -2:15 pm SEE LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
You should be aware of a new federal
law passed last year that targets high-risk flood zone properties receiving
subsidized flood insurance rates and "grandfathered” flood insurance premiums.
Schedule to start October 1, 2013
- The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance
Reform Act of 2012 will have a significant impact on many Pinellas
County and St. Petersburg homeowners and business property owners.
A significant number of property
owners will incur a 25 percent annual rate increase, which according to some
reports could be a $5,000 rate increase difference.
Pinellas County is the No.1 county
in Florida and the nation impacted by this new law, and accounts for 51,000
of the policies impacted by the flood insurance premium increases.
While we understand the need to strengthen the financial stability of this national flood insurance program, we do believe it requires further study to ensure equitable and proportionate increases across the country. We believe our homeowners, property owners and our entire real estate market requires careful considerations to ensure we all move forward with the momentum of a recovering economy.
Wondering if you're in a high risk flood zone? CLICK to search for your address on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's official Map Service Center.
If you need additional information, feel free to contact Travis Norton, Advocacy Manager with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce at 727-388-0682 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note: You should contact your insurance agent if you have questions on your flood insurance rate, flood zone mapping, and annual policy rate.
Biggert Waters Act of 2012 and NFIP Background
On October 1, 2013 over 51,000 property owners in Pinellas County will see a dramatic increase in their flood insurance policies as a direct result from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012(BW-12) - a law overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2012 that targets high-risk flood zone properties whose owners have received subsidized flood insurance rates and "grandfathered” flood insurance premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The U.S Congress passed the BW-12, enacting FEMA to make the NFIP sustainable after a $25 billion deficit created by large-scale flooding disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
The most devastating part will go into effecton October 1st, 2013- A25 percent annual rate increase,until rates reflect true risk for policies subsidized by NFIP. The type of properties that have seen or will see increased premiums include, but are not limited too;Residential buildings built prior to the first Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM); non-primary residences that are occupied less than 80% of the year;subsidized commercial buildings; Buildings that suffer repetitive loss or if cumulative damage cost more to repair than the building is worth. Because BW-12 will do away with "Grandfathered Structures,” all buildings below the current or future Base Flood Elevations (BFE) will be impacted.It is important to contact a property insurance agent to see if you will be affected by this policy change.
Other actions that will trigger immediate rate subsidy elimination are if the property is sold or the policy lapses. New construction or buyers of homes that purchase new policies in high risk flood zone will trigger the largest increase, with premiums reportedly ranging from $1,000 to $25,000 a year.
Why is the BFE Important?
The BFE is one of the main determining factors in how much a property’s annual flood insurance premiums will be. According to some reports, there could be a $5,000 difference between having a BFE of +1 and a BFE of -1. In those same reports, a property with a -6 BFE may have as much as a $14,000 difference from a property with a +1 BFE.
**Click Here to See a Detailed Chart on BFE Rates**
How does the BW-12 Impact Pinellas County?
Pinellas County is the No.1 County in the nation and Florida impactedby BW-12, and account for 51,000 of the policies impacted by the flood insurance premium increases.
** See a Detailed FEMA Flood Insurance Spreadsheet for Every State, Florida County and Florida City**
These are the steps that you should take to see if your policy is one of the 51,000 policies in Pinellas County impacted by the flood insurance increases that take effect on October 1st, 2013
Contact your property insurance agent
Ask your property insurance agent if your flood insurance policy is subsidized by the NFIP and if your policy is at risk of having a 25 percent annual increase until your rate reflects true risk.
Your property insurance agent will use the Elevation Certificate to compare your building’s elevation to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The BFE identifies how high the water is likely to rise in a base flood. The land area of the base flood is called the Special Flood Hazard Area, floodplain, or high-risk zone.
The higher above the BFE a building is located, the lower the insurance premium will be for that property. The Elevation Certificate will make that determination.
How To Get An Elevation Certificate For Your Property
1. If you own a property in the City of St. Petersburg, visit the City of St. Petersburg’s websiteto see if your property’s elevation information is on file. Each of Pinellas County’s 24 municipalities has their own methods of Certificate of Elevation record keeping. In some cases, municipalities may only have the paper records on file. In that case, the policy owner will have to visit the municipality to retrieve the copy of their Certificate of Elevation.
2. Many Pre-FIRM, subsidized policies won’t have an elevation certificate because the federal government did not require an elevation certificate. Most of the homes without elevation certifications were PR. In this case, if you are concerned about the elevation of a property, you may want to hire a Florida-licensed surveyor to obtain an Elevation Certificate. A cost of a surveyor can vary from $175 or more, depending on the location and complexity of the survey.
You can find theofficial FEMA NFIP Elevation Certificate forms by clicking on this link.
Click here for an example of a FEMA flood zone map of Old Northeast and Downtown St. Petersburg.
3. When you receive your Elevation Certificate
· Provide one copy to your insurance agent.
· Keep a copy for your records
Currently, it doesn't look promising that any legislation to delay or reform the Biggert Waters Act will be voted and approved by Congress before the Thanksgiving recess. Most likely any delay in the flood insurances for grandfathered properties will be voted by Congress before the December holiday recess, by way of the omnibus appropriations bills or another form of "must pass legislation” bills.
October 1 - 17th - The U.S. Government entered a shutdown after Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014. The previous hearing on October 9th in the House regarding Flood Insurance is currently being re-scheduled for the month of November.
September 27th - Florida Representative, Rich Nugent introduced a bipartisan bill in the House (HR 3218) that will delay the new rates until the affordability study is completed, which was supposed to be
completed prior to the new rates that take effect on October 1, 2013. The
legislation will also require that if the study finds that the new rates are
not affordable, then FEMA must make recommendations about what changes Congress
should make. Congress would then be required to vote up-or-down on those
recommended changes within ten legislative days. If either chamber
rejects the changes, then the new rates will be delayed for 180 days after the
report is released to provide Congress with time to come up with a workable
solution. Florida Reps, Bill Young, Kathy Castor, Gus Bilirakis, Dennis Ross - are amongst the co-sponsors of the bill.
September 26th - Senator Marco Rubio of Florida released a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and CFO, Jeff Atwater,
expressing his opposition to the drastic increases in flood insurance for
property owners in Florida. Senator Rubio also stated that long-term
solutions in NFIP are needed to bring financial stability to the program, while
also guaranteeing that the flood insurance rate increases won’t have a drastic
effect on property owners and the economy. Sen. Marco Rubio was the lone ‘Nay’
vote in the Biggert-Waters Act (HR
4348), signed on July 6, 2012.
September 25th - Senator Bill Nelson of Florida
filed an amendment to a Continuing Resolution (CR) currently being considered
in the Senate that would prohibit any funds from being used to implement
Sections 205 and 207 of Biggert-Waters. This amendment would prohibit
funding to implement any rate increases through the duration of this CR.
September 24th - Florida Realtors Chair Dean Asher and Pinellas Realtor Organization Chair-elect
Brandi Gabbard testified before the Governor and the Florida Cabinet on the
impact of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012. City of St. Petersburg Mayor, Bill
Foster also testified. In the audience were Rep. Hooper, Rep. Dudley,
Rep. Ahern, Rep. Zimmerman, and Rep. Peters. Thanks to St. Petersburg Chamber
member - Joe Farrell, of Pinellas Realtors Organization for being in attendance
and providing updates on today’s Cabinet Meeting in Tallahassee.
September 18th - The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the Biggert-Waters
implementation, and it was abundantly clear that there is national appreciation
for the negative effects of the Biggert-Waters Act. During the hearing,
FEMA Administrator, Fugate stated that he believes he has very little leeway
within the law to delay premium increases administratively.
What are the legislative solutions?
Affordability Study: A crucial part of the reforms was an
affordability study that was supposed to be completed prior to the new rates
kicking in. That study still hasn’t come back and the Administrator of
FEMA has testified that it may not be ready until 2015. Rep. Nugent of Florida introduced bipartisan
legislation that will delay the new rates until the study is complete.
The legislation will also require that if the study finds that the new rates
are not affordable, then FEMA must make recommendations about what changes
Congress should make. Congress would then be required to vote up-or-down
on those recommended changes within ten legislative days. If either
chamber rejects the changes, then the new rates will be delayed for 180 days
after the report is released to provide Congress with time to come up with a
A full Senate vote to approve the 2014 Department of Homeland
Security Appropriations bill passed by the full House as well as the Senate
Appropriations Committee in July of 2013. Should this pass, as is, a full vote
by the Senate, then a one year moratorium of Section 207 would take effect for
grandfathered properties. Unfortunately, it won’t do anything to affect
subsidized policies that will be immediately phased out immediately on October
1, 2013 or properties that change ownership.
· The U.S. Congress can reinstate "grandfathering” of properties
that were built to code, have maintained insurance, and have not suffered
· Delay the newly-mandated NFIP rate increases in order to allow
FEMA to work with local stakeholders to continue to develop and refine maps to
accurately reflect flood risk in each affected community.
-Approximately 40% of federally backed mortgages that are required
to have flood insurance do not. Would the program be
solvent if everyone who is required to purchase flood insurance actually
Contact Your U.S. Representatives to support delaying Sections 205 and 207 of the Biggert-Waters Act until the affordability study is completed by FEMA.
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson D.C Office (202) 224-5274
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio D.C.Office (202) 224-3041
Congresswoman Kathy Castor District Office (813 )871-2817
Congressman Gus Bilirakis District Office (727)-940-5860
**Click here to insert your own letterhead on this letter to send to each one of your Congressional leaders **, urging them to delay and reform the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012.
The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce will be
communicating with FEMA, the offices of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson U.S. Senator
Marco Rubio, the Pinellas County Congressional delegation, and the
Pinellas County Property Appraiser, Pam Dubov, to provide our members with the
most up-to-date information on the affects of the Biggert Waters Act of 2012.
If you need additional information, feel free to contact Travis
Norton, Advocacy Manager with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce at
727-388-0682 or email@example.com.
Media stories on this issue:
Skyrocketing Flood Insurance Rates Bring Financial Chaos, Heartache to Coastal Homeowners Across U.S. - The Weather Channel
Flood insurance rates expected to rise October 1st for people living in flood zones - ABC News Tampa
Flood insurance rate hikes threaten ‘Old Florida’ communities - Tampa Tribune
Insurance Department Sues FEMA to Stop Flood Rate Increases
Rubio calls for ‘long-term fix’ for flood insurance program - St. Peters Blog
rate hike soaks Hillsborough housing market - Tampa Tribune
shocking flood insurance figures emerge – Fox 13 Tampa Video
County cities joining the battle against flood insurance increase – 10 News
Tampa Bay Video
of flood insurance rate hikes galvanize at community forum - Tampa Bay Times
insurance rates could jump for more than 21,000 Hillsborough homes - Tampa Bay Times
Foster makes rare Tallahassee appearance to address flood insurance problem -
Tampa Bay Times
Hundreds attend flood insurance meeting in Seminole Bay News 9
measure would stop flood insurance increases – TBO
Rising flood insurance rates will
affect many inland homes -Tampa Bay Times
Editorial: Slow down flood insurance
rate hikes -Tampa Bay Times
St. Pete Beach Homeowner sees her
flood insurance premium increase from $1,339 to $8,859 -Tampa Bay Times
insurance rates fuel anxiety in real estate-Tampa
on flood insurance change-Tampa
insurance rates bearing down like a hurricane on Florida-Tampa Bay Times
for national flood program, though Florida pales in payouts-Tampa Bay Times
insurance rules have consequences for Florida's economy-Tampa Bay Times
Watch out! Flood
insurance rate hikes could be huge for Bay area-WTSP Tampa Bay
The New Flood
New York Times
$20,000 a year
for flood insurance? Sandy survivors face tough rebuilding choicesNBC News
insurance guidelines released-The
on NFIP Rate Increases Leads to Sticker Shock-Property Casualty
state to block flood insurance changes-The Patriot Ledger
On the Hill: Do
private insurers get too much of your flood insurance premiums? Also new report
on arsenic levels for riceNOLA.com
worries with flood insurance rates poised to rise-Herald Tribune
pushes delegation letter seeking delay in flood insurance premium hikes-NOLA.com | Times-Picayune