As Flood Zone Maps Change, Insurance Rates Increase for Homeowners
A new federal law will force homeowners in many areas of Massachusetts to experience increases in their flood insurance rates.
Last year the Biggert Waters Act was approved in response to FEMA having to pay out claims due to major disasters like Katrina, Irene, and Sandy. The Act made changes to The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which offered government-subsidized policies for properties in flood risk areas. This legislation requires the NFIP to raise rates to reflect true flood risk. Federal flood maps are also in the process of being updated, which means thousands of properties that may not have been considered at risk for flooding in the past now will be.
Insurance rates for homes in newly designated high-risk areas will start going up as much as 25% a year until rates reach levels that would reflect the actual risk from flooding. These policies are not state-specific, and will still be in effect regardless of the homeowner’s insurance company.
The new flood zone maps not only affect homes in coastal areas like Cape Cod and the North Shore, but also homes in areas near marshes, ponds and small rivers. Even if the home in a newly designated high risk zone hasn’t flooded in 100 years, insurance premiums will increase.
If your town or city adopts a new, updated Flood Insurance Rate Map, grandfathered rates will be phased out. This will happen gradually, with new rates increasing by 20% per year for five years.
So if you’re selling a home and you have always paid a lower rate, the new owner will not get the old rate, they will have to pay the updated rates.
Who Is Affected By These Changes?
- Owners of subsidized policies on non-primary/secondary residences in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) will see a 25% increase annually until rates reflect true risk
- Owners of subsidized policies on property that has experienced severe or repeated flooding will see a 25% rate increase annually until rates reflect true risk – beginning October 1, 2013.
- Owners of subsidized policies on business/non-residential properties in a Special Flood Hazard Area will see a 25% increase annually until rates reflect true flood risk — beginning October 1, 2013.
- Some homes will retain their subsidies until sold to new owner, or until the flood insurance policy is allowed to lapse.
- Subsidized condominiums and non-condo multi-family structures policy holders will keep their subsidies until FEMA develops guidance for their removal
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to get an elevation certificate, which can cost from $500-$2000, depending on the surveyor. An elevation certificate will make sure you get the correct rate for your particular zone.
How to Find Out What Flood Zone Your Home Is In
You can view the current flood zone by going to the FEMA website Flood Map Tool.
You can enter your address to see which zone your home is in. You can also view your flood risk profile by going to www.floodsmart.gov.
Last month House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Attorney General Martha Coakley introduced legislation that would limit the amount of insurance homeowners in the flood zone must purchase. The bill, an “Act Relative to Flood Insurance,” would keep lenders from requiring homeowners purchase flood insurance that’s more expensive than the balance of their mortgages.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), one of the original sponsors of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, recently introduced legislation that calls for a delay in rate changes to the NFIP in an effort to fix the “unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act.” The bill, “Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013,” aims to keep homeowner premiums affordable and prevent home values from dropping.
FEMA: Who Will Be Impacted by Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act
Massachusetts Association of Realtors: Flood Insurance: What You Need To Know