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Flood Insurance Reforms


 *Updated February 6th, 2014 - 3:50 PM

Schedule to start October 1, 2013 - The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 will have a significant impact on many Pinellas County and St. Petersburg homeowners and business property owners.

A significant number of property owners will incur a 25 percent annual rate increase, which according to some reports could be a $5,000 rate increase difference.

Pinellas County is the No.1 county in Florida and the nation impacted by this new law, and accounts for 51,000 of the policies impacted by the flood insurance premium increases.

While we understand the need to strengthen the financial stability of this national flood insurance program, we do believe it requires further study to ensure equitable and proportionate increases across the country. We believe our homeowners, property owners and our entire real estate market requires careful considerations to ensure we all move forward with the momentum of a recovering economy.


Biggert Waters Act of 2012 and NFIP Background

On October 1, 2013 over 51,000 property owners in Pinellas County will see a dramatic increase in their flood insurance policies as a direct result from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012(BW-12) - a law overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2012 that targets high-risk flood zone properties whose owners have received subsidized flood insurance rates and "grandfathered” flood insurance premiums through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The U.S Congress passed the BW-12, enacting FEMA to make the NFIP sustainable after a $25 billion deficit created by large-scale flooding disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.


Will my flood insurance rate go up?

Contact your property insurance agent

Ask your property insurance agent if your flood insurance policy is subsidized by the NFIP and if your policy is at risk of having a 25 percent annual increase until your rate reflects true risk.

Your property insurance agent will use the Elevation Certificate to compare your building’s elevation to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The BFE identifies how high the water is likely to rise in a base flood. The land area of the base flood is called the Special Flood Hazard Area, floodplain, or high-risk zone. 

How To Get An Elevation Certificate For Your Property

1. If you own a property in the City of St. Petersburg, visit the City of St. Petersburg’s websiteto see if your property’s elevation information is on file. Each of Pinellas County’s 24 municipalities has their own methods of Certificate of Elevation record keeping. In some cases, municipalities may only have the paper records on file. In that case, the policy owner will have to visit the municipality to retrieve the copy of their Certificate of Elevation.

2. Many Pre-FIRM, subsidized policies won’t have an elevation certificate because the federal government did not require an elevation certificate. Most of the homes without elevation certifications were PR. In this case, if you are concerned about the elevation of a property, you may want to hire a Florida-licensed surveyor to obtain an Elevation Certificate. A cost of a surveyor can vary from $175 or more, depending on the location and complexity of the survey.

You can find theofficial FEMA NFIP Elevation Certificate forms by clicking on this link.

Click here for an example of a FEMA flood zone map of Old Northeast and Downtown St. Petersburg.

3. When you receive your Elevation Certificate

· Provide one copy to your insurance agent.

· Keep a copy for your records

Legislative Update 

October 1 - 17th - The U.S. Government entered a shutdown after Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014. The previous hearing on October 9th in the House regarding Flood Insurance is currently being re-scheduled for the month of November.

September 27th - Florida Representative, Rich Nugent introduced a bipartisan bill in the House (HR 3218) that will delay the new rates until the affordability study is completed, which was supposed to be completed prior to the new rates that take effect on October 1, 2013. The legislation will also require that if the study finds that the new rates are not affordable, then FEMA must make recommendations about what changes Congress should make.  Congress would then be required to vote up-or-down on those recommended changes within ten legislative days.  If either chamber rejects the changes, then the new rates will be delayed for 180 days after the report is released to provide Congress with time to come up with a workable solution. Florida Reps, Bill Young, Kathy Castor, Gus Bilirakis, Dennis Ross - are amongst the co-sponsors of the bill.

September 26th - Senator Marco Rubio of Florida released a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and CFO, Jeff Atwater,  expressing his opposition to the drastic increases in flood insurance for property owners in Florida.  Senator Rubio also stated that long-term solutions in NFIP are needed to bring financial stability to the program, while also guaranteeing that the flood insurance rate increases won’t have a drastic effect on property owners and the economy. Sen. Marco Rubio was the lone ‘Nay’ vote in the Biggert-Waters Act (HR 4348), signed on July 6, 2012.     

September 25thSenator Bill Nelson of Florida filed an amendment to a Continuing Resolution (CR) currently being considered in the Senate that would prohibit any funds from being used to implement Sections 205 and 207 of Biggert-Waters.  This amendment would prohibit funding to implement any rate increases through the duration of this CR.    

September 24th -  Florida Realtors Chair Dean Asher and Pinellas Realtor Organization Chair-elect Brandi Gabbard testified before the Governor and the Florida Cabinet on the impact of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012. City of St. Petersburg Mayor, Bill Foster also testified.  In the audience were Rep. Hooper, Rep. Dudley, Rep. Ahern, Rep. Zimmerman, and Rep. Peters. Thanks to St. Petersburg Chamber member - Joe Farrell, of Pinellas Realtors Organization for being in attendance and providing updates on today’s Cabinet Meeting in Tallahassee.   

September 18th - The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the Biggert-Waters implementation, and it was abundantly clear that there is national appreciation for the negative effects of the Biggert-Waters Act.  During the hearing, FEMA Administrator, Fugate stated that he believes he has very little leeway within the law to delay premium increases administratively.   

What are the legislative solutions?

Affordability Study: A crucial part of the reforms was an affordability study that was supposed to be completed prior to the new rates kicking in.  That study still hasn’t come back and the Administrator of FEMA has testified that it may not be ready until 2015. Rep. Nugent of Florida introduced bipartisan legislation that will delay the new rates until the study is complete.  The legislation will also require that if the study finds that the new rates are not affordable, then FEMA must make recommendations about what changes Congress should make.  Congress would then be required to vote up-or-down on those recommended changes within ten legislative days.  If either chamber rejects the changes, then the new rates will be delayed for 180 days after the report is released to provide Congress with time to come up with a workable solution.

Contact Your U.S. Representatives to support delaying Sections 205 and 207 of the Biggert-Waters Act 

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson             D.C Office (202) 224-5274

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio              D.C.Office (202) 224-3041

Congresswoman Kathy Castor             District Office (813 )871-2817

Congressman Gus Bilirakis District Office (727)-940-5860

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce will be communicating with FEMA, the offices of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, the Pinellas County Congressional delegation, and the Pinellas County Property Appraiser, Pam Dubov, to provide our members with the most up-to-date information on the affects of the Biggert Waters Act of 2012.

If you need additional information, feel free to contact Travis Norton, Advocacy Manager with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce at 727-388-0682 or

Media stories on this issue:

Skyrocketing Flood Insurance Rates Bring Financial Chaos, Heartache to Coastal Homeowners Across U.S. - The Weather Channel

Flood insurance rates expected to rise October 1st for people living in flood zones - ABC News Tampa

Flood insurance rate hikes threaten ‘Old Florida’ communities - Tampa Tribune

Mississippi Insurance Department Sues FEMA to Stop Flood Rate Increases

Marco Rubio calls for ‘long-term fix’ for flood insurance program - St. Peters Blog

Flood rate hike soaks Hillsborough housing market - Tampa Tribune

More shocking flood insurance figures emerge – Fox 13 Tampa Video

Pinellas County cities joining the battle against flood insurance increase – 10 News Tampa Bay  Video

Opponents of flood insurance rate hikes galvanize at community forum - Tampa Bay Times

Flood insurance rates could jump for more than 21,000 Hillsborough homes - Tampa Bay Times

Bill Foster makes rare Tallahassee appearance to address flood insurance problem - Tampa Bay Times

Thousands Hundreds attend flood insurance meeting in Seminole Bay News 9

Nelson measure would stop flood insurance increases – TBO

Rising flood insurance rates will affect many inland homes -Tampa Bay Times

Editorial: Slow down flood insurance rate hikes -Tampa Bay Times

St. Pete Beach Homeowner sees her flood insurance premium increase from $1,339 to $8,859 -Tampa Bay Times

Soaring flood insurance rates fuel anxiety in real estate-Tampa Bay Times

County mobilizes on flood insurance change-Tampa Bay Times

Rising flood insurance rates bearing down like a hurricane on Florida-Tampa Bay Times

Premiums rising for national flood program, though Florida pales in payouts-Tampa Bay Times

New flood insurance rules have consequences for Florida's economy-Tampa Bay Times

Watch out! Flood insurance rate hikes could be huge for Bay area-WTSP Tampa Bay

The New Flood Insurance Disaster-The New York Times

$20,000 a year for flood insurance? Sandy survivors face tough rebuilding choices­NBC News

New flood insurance guidelines released-The Advocate

FEMA Briefings on NFIP Rate Increases Leads to Sticker Shock-Property Casualty 360

Hedlund urges state to block flood insurance changes-The Patriot Ledger

On the Hill: Do private insurers get too much of your flood insurance premiums? Also new report on arsenic levels for | Times-Picayune

Waterfront worries with flood insurance rates poised to rise-Herald Tribune

Sen. Landrieu pushes delegation letter seeking delay in flood insurance premium | Times-Picayune

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