As a homeowner, you may have noticed two developments concerning flood insurance recently:
- You now have to buy flood insurance
- It's really expensive
This is not due to your insurance company raising rates because they are paying for damages caused by Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, or Midwest flooding in 2012. It is due to the Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The Act made sweeping changes to the National Flood Insurance Program and they just kicked in last month. At the point that Congress passed the new law, NFIP was $18 billion in debt.
How does it affect homeowners?
Biggert-Waters phases out flood insurance subsidies on hundreds of thousands of older homes. This means that premiums will necessarily skyrocket. Homes sold after Biggert-Waters passed in July, 2012, or those whose policies lapse, will see their premiums immediately go up to the non-subsidized actuarial rate.
Part of the Act raised what's known as the base flood elevation (BFE) for certain areas, which means that some homeowners who never had to carry flood insurance now have to. If your home is now in a high risk zone, you may have to raise your home by putting it on pylons, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars, but will not significantly increase the value of the home.
Homeowners who have properties in the new FEMA flood zones could experience flood insurance premium increases of 500-1000%. Mortgage payments in effect double when seeing that kind of increase. This means that property values go down. Owning a home along the nation's coasts and river valleys becomes less attractive. Building a new home in these areas becomes almost impossible.
Reaction to Biggert-Waters is gaining momentum as homeowners realize exactly how it affects their homes’ value and premiums. If you find that your premiums have risen, talk to your insurance representative.