The National Flood Insurance Program is going through a significant overhaul -- with premiums for many homeowners in Bristol County expected to skyrocket as new rates will reflect new maps drawn up and the actual risks associated with your property’s location.
There are ways to reduce the impact of your rate change, though, according to Bob Desauners of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
He spoke at an East Bay session on the flood insurance program in Barrington library Thursday evening, Sept. 26. It gave property owners a chance to look at new maps as the same time.
The first and most important way to reduce your impact is to find out as soon as possible from your insurance agent about how rate changes will affect your policy, said Desauners, especially if your property is in a high hazard flood zone. You could be there under the new maps and not know it unless you find out.
You will probably need an “elevation certificate” to determine your current rate, he said. That will require hiring a professional engineer or surveyor to determine your elevation. A foot or two higher or lower will make a huge difference.
“If you don’t have flood insurance right now,” he said, “you still might be able to get a preferred policy with a low premium.”
You would then have up to five years to deal with insurance rates that will escalate anywhere from 15 to 17 percent or more a year as the new Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 changes the way FEMA runs the flood insurance program.
The new law is definitely phasing out subsidized policies on non-primary and secondary residences, property that has experienced severe or repeated flooding and business and non-residential properties in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Those properties are expected to see 25 percent rate increases annually until rates reflect the true flood risk, beginning next Tuesday, Oct. 1.
“Grandfathering rules also will be in play to the end of next year,” said Desauners. “And you can take advantage now before the map changes go into effect next May.”
Consider taking higher deductibles to lower your premiums or build or rebuild higher to lower your risk and trim your premiums.
If all of this sounds confusing, it is, Desauners said. And there is new legislation in Congress to push out the “grandfathering” date beyond the end of 2014. That will make things even a bit more confusing.
Doing nothing at this time, said Desauners, is something you should not do.
“Your premiums could be horrendous,” he said.