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U.S. House passes flood insurance bill
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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a flood insurance bill Tuesday night that could signal the coming of relief for Florida families trying to deal with massive rate hikes.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a flood insurance bill Tuesday night that could signal the coming of relief for Florida families trying to deal with massive rate hikes.

Governor Rick Scott called the action the “right thing for Floridians.”

“The House’s action on this flood insurance fix tonight is an important win in our fight to undo unfair insurance flood insurance rate hikes that are hurting Florida families,” Scott said in a press release.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said the House bill didn’t do enough, but was a good first step.

“Although it doesn’t go as far as the bill we passed in the Senate, it’s good the House has approved some curbs on flood insurance,” Nelson said. “For the sake of policyholders facing massive rate hikes, I hope we can get a final version sent to the president quickly.”

The U.S. Senate approved legislation proposed by Nelson Jan. 30, which would delay many of the flood insurance rate increases for four years, during which time FEMA would be required to study the affordability of the policies and re-evaluate the accuracy of new flood maps.

The House bill does not delay rate increases but repeals certain sections, according to an analysis from the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. It restores grandfathering and repeals the automatic increase in rates from the sale of a home or a lapsed policy.

It limits the annual rate increase to a maximum of 15 percent and proposes refunds for some policyholders who have already paid increased premiums. The House increased funding for an affordability study from $750,000 to $3 million. It provides long-term relief by adding an annual surcharge of $25 for residential policyholders and $250 fee for commercial and secondary properties. The surcharge will go to the National Flood Insurance Program reserve fund.

The House bill does not affect commercial properties, secondary homes or properties with severe losses. Rates for those properties will continue to increase by 25 percent a year. However, rate increases would no longer be triggered with the sale of the property.

The Senate bill would enact a four-year delay and would temporarily restore grandfathering. It also would delay rate increases triggered by home sales and delay annual rate increases. It removes the cap for funding of an affordability study and provides short-term relief to premium increases.

Members of the Conference Committee will meet to work out the differences before legislation is sent to the president for signing.

Pinellas County has been described as “ground zero” due to the number of properties affected by sky-high flood insurance rate hikes due the affects from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. Horror stories of rates increases have been frequent for months. The real estate industry is reeling. Government officials are concerned that property values could plummet.

Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 to try to stabilize the finances of NFIP, which has been in the red since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“This bill is an important first step toward giving Florida homeowners some relief from massive, unaffordable hikes in their flood insurance premiums,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney. “Passing this legislation is critical to maintaining growth in Florida’s housing market and its entire economy.”

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