TREASURE ISLAND – About 200 people turned out at the Treasure Island City Hall Aug. 27 to hear a panel of speakers and vent their concerns over the controversial Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
The overflow crowd was funneled into the nearby community center where the presentation was televised simultaneously.
Treasure Island Mayor Bob Minning introduced the speakers for the evening who included Patty Latshaw, vice president and principal flood coordinator, Wright Flood; Anita Ford, agency principal of Insurance Resources; Anita Ryals Wright Insurance Regional Sales Manager; Pam Dubov, Pinellas County Property Appraiser; Jim White of Century 21, and Ron and Jacob Holehouse of Holehouse Insurance.
The aim of the bill is to end federal flood insurance subsidies or discounts for owners of homes and business buildings built prior to 1974 and the implementation of the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).
Opponents of this legislation say it is guaranteed to send the cost of flood insurance premiums soaring for many Pinellas County policyholders.
The bill has been approved by the House of Representatives and is scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, pending a final vote from the Senate when it reconvenes in September.
Under this legislation, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has the ability to increase premiums by up to 20 percent a year. Premiums will increase an average of 10 percent for policies written or renewed on or after Oct. 1, 2013.
The law also eliminates “grandfathering,” which now allows owners of properties built to previous standards to keep their current rates.
A proviso to this is that structures built during that time having a certain base elevation in compliance with a construction date on or after the community’s initial FIRM date and before Jan. 1, 1975 are still eligible for built-in compliance grandfathering.
Commercial property, homes used as a secondary residence and condominiums built pre-FIRM would also be impacted.
Banks and other lending institutions require flood insurance for most mortgages in low-lying, high-risk areas.
Under the pre-FIRM, policy owners living in towns and cities that participate in the Community Rating System have qualified for insurance discounts of up to 20 percent.
Subsidized rates are based on how high the lowest living area in a building is with respect to that community’s base flood elevation.
Treasure Island’s base elevation, for instance is between 11 to 12 feet; under the current pre-FIRM rules.
“If you are rated at the lowest level for base flood you’re going to be paying about $1,835; those who live 2 feet below you will see your premiums increase to $6,442; you go 6 feet and your annual premium jumps up to $15,183,” said Latshaw.
Philyss McMillan, general manager of Treasure Bay Hotel and Marina on Treasure Island, said she got quite a shock when the business changed insurance carriers and needed to acquire an elevation certificate.
“We learned we are 5 feet above sea level, i.e., minus-6,” she said. “We now have the pleasure of paying an additional $3,000 a month for the same coverage of our hotel. Unfortunately, the fact is commercial businesses will have no choice but to share some of this cost with the consumers and the effect it will have on tourism in our area is of deep concern.”
“Well, it’s great to be the property appraiser,” joked Pam Dubov, Pinellas County Property Appraiser, as she took the podium, “I’ve come to you with no good news at all.”
With regard to the impact the bill is likely to have on local market values, Dubov said, “The evidence from what I have heard from Realtors and bankers is mixed. There are people who can afford to pay those rates, but they are very few in number compared to those who have been participating in the market.”
Information regarding the age of a home and whether it lies within a flood zone can be found on FEMA maps.
With the base elevation level now a major factor in determining how much insurance costs will be, Dubov said that without a certificate of elevation, it’s impossible for her office to ascertain how high the lowest living area of a house is with respect to the base flood elevation. Currently, no clearinghouse exists where this type of information can easily be found.
Base flood elevation levels, she added, vary from house to house regardless of the street or neighborhood in which it is located.
“The federal government has moved ahead to put this program into effect, but they have yet to identify a database we really need to determine in advance who is most likely to be affected,” Dubov said.
A certificate of elevation can be obtained from either the property developer or from community officials such as the city or town’s planning and zoning office for a cost of $200 to $500. Hiring a licensed land surveyor to prepare the document is an option as well.
Some property owners seeking to renew their policies on or after Oct. 1 will see a 25 percent annual increase in their flood insurance policies until they can supply a certificate of elevation that indicates their full-risk premium rate is lower than the subsidized rate using the current FIRM.
The Biggert-Waters Act signed into law in 2012, was designed to stabilize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) federal flood insurance program which found itself $18 billion in debt after Hurricane Katrina; in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that figure has ballooned to about $24 billion.
Residents hoping to relegate this bill to the ash bin were to make their voices heard and to contact Sens. Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio and Congressman Bill Young.
“We’re small, but we’re mighty,” Minning told the crowd. “Contact our elected officials; it’s the only mechanism we have to get a reprieve from this.”
Petition available on flood insurance
ST. PETE BEACH – The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is asking all concerned residents to sign a petition on the current FEMA flood insurance issue that will be delivered to: the Florida State House of Representatives, Florida Senate, Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama.
The chamber asks that residents to forward it to friends, colleagues and family. For more information on the issue, contact Doug Izzo at 360-6957.
On July 6 2012, the Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2013 was signed into law July 6, 2012, which reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program for five years.
There are two parts to the legislation. The first part will go into effect on Oct. 1 – a 25 percent rate increase annually until rates reflect true risk for residential buildings built prior to the first Flood Insurance Rate Map, all commercial buildings that suffer repetitive loss.
If cumulative damage cost more to repair than the building is worth, rates go up to reflect true risk all at once, not 25 percent a year if
This would occur when the property is sold, a policy lapses or a new policy is purchased.
The second part would go into effect on the start of fiscal 2014.