Flood Insurance Florida

Over the last few weeks everyone seems to have been talking about “flood insurance Florida”. There have been svereal articles and newspaper reports on the Biggert-Waters, the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance and the bill going through the Senate, plus the possible setup of the Florida Flood Insurance Marketplace.

Behind all of this are the huge rises in costs of flood insurance in Florida as a result of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), currently facing many Florida residents. This comes at a time when floods in Florida have regularly been in the news. Parts of Bay County were flooded in late February, and in January 2014, two people died in floods in Palm Beach county after huge amounts of rain hit the area, leaving some places under 2 feet of flood water. St Lucie county was also badly hit.

The threat of flooding is a fact of life for many Floridians, especially those residing in coastal areas. Hurricanes and tropical storms can hit any time, causing huge amounts of damage, such as storm Isaac in 2012 and Wilma in 2005. Tidal surges and coastal storms also add to the threat. Parts of coastal Florida already see regular flooding during a high tide. Rises in sea levels in areas of Florida threaten to make this even worse.

Flood Insurance Costs Rise for Florida Residents

Florida home and business property owners have seen some steep rises in the cost of their flood insurance over the last months. This is thought to be am effect of the flood insurance reforms, which came into law in 2012 and are known as the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (BW-12 ).

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), manages the flood insurance program, official known as National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The program currently has a huge deficit of $24 billion, many say as a result of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

According to FEMA, the Biggert-Waters bill requires the NFIP

“to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders. The changes will mean premium rate increases for some—but not all—policyholders over time. Homeowners and business owners are encouraged to learn their flood risk and talk to their insurance agent to determine if their policy will be affected by BW-12. “

But for many of the state’s residents, this has meant increases in the costs of flood insurance in Florida. In some cases, very steep increases. There have been some reports of insurance bills for $24,000 – an increase of $21,000 – according to Watchdog.org

It is estimated that around a quarter of a million home owners will see increases in the costs of their flood insurance in Florida. Many of these homes and properties are in coastal areas but properties across the state – inland or on the coast – could well see some insurance price increases.

Currently the U.S. Senate is awaiting a key vote for a bill, supported by the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance, that would put a 4 year delay on some increases in flood insurance rates across the country.

flood insurance florida
Photo: maxstrz

Do I need Flood Insurance in Florida?

As pointed out above, parts of Florida are regularly under threat of flooding, especially the coastal areas. Standard home owners insurance does not cover you for flood damage. Check with your home owner insurance provider to see exactly what your insurance policy covers.

Flooding is one of the most common natural disasters and can cause enormous amounts of damage to a property and to your belongings inside. The costs of restoring and repairing a flood damaged building can be very steep indeed. You will need to consider things such as drying out costs, building repairs, damaged drywall, doors, windows and debris removal and even the costs of temporary accommodation. You should also consider the damage a flood might do to your home’s contents, such as furniture, carpets and electrical goods. It’s important to consider the protection and peace of mind that good flood insurance will give you.

Costs of Flooding

Obviously it is impossible to say exactly how much any flood damage would cost each home owner. It depends on many factors, in particular the severity of the flood.

But as a general guideline, a home of around 1,000 square feet that had suffered a flood of around 6 inches of water, would leave you with around $20,000 of damage. A larger home or property may see costs as much as twice that.

How Much Will Flood Insurance Cost?

This is a question that is impossible to answer through this website. The price of flood insurance in Florida may depend on many factors – the location, size, age and type of home you have, to name a few.

This is why we suggest talking (or better still, meeting face to face) a trusted, professional insurance agent, and preferably one with local knowledge and who specialises in flood insurance. Flood insurance is too important and complex to attempt to find a policy online. We suggest you get proper, professional, and local advice.

Causes of Flooding and Flood Risk Areas of Florida

Hurricanes and tropical storms have for many years posed the biggest threat of flooding in Florida. Storms Isaac and Wilma caused over $700 million of damage. Tropical storm Debby, also in 2012, dumped as much as 15 inches of rain in parts of north and south Florida. In 2008, Tropical Storm Fay left some roads under 5 feet of water.

Tropical Storm Fay floods Florida road in 2008. Photo: ajmexico
Tropical Storm Fay floods Florida road in 2008. Photo: ajmexico

But flooding in Florida is also caused by particularly heavy rain, such as the recent floods in Palm Beach in January 2014. In August 2013, Pasco and Hernando counties were badly hit, seeing around 6 inches of rain fall in a few hours. There were also severe storms and heavy rain in north Florida during July 2013, especially in Holmes, Wahsington, Bay and Walton counties. A tropical downpour in Florida in June 2012 brought floods to much of the Panhandle area, when Pensacola saw a record 13 inches of rain and Mobile was around 6 inches over the course of one weekend.

As time goes on, one of the biggest flood threats will come from sea level rises. For some, Florida is the most vulnerable state in the country to the rise in sea levels. It has over 1,000 miles of coastline that stands just a few feet above sea level. These areas of likely to suffer from flooding as a result of further rises in the future. Much of the coastline is on highly porous limestone that will mean a high water table, particularly after heavy rain or even a high tide. The four counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach in south east Florida are so concerned about increases in sea levels they are working together to find solutions. Collier, Pinellas and Lee counties are also at threat of sea level rises. The streets of Miami Beach are regularly seen under salt water during a higher tide, for example in October 2012.

floods in florida
Floods in melbourne, Florida. Photo: highlander411

Florida Flood Insurance Marketplace

With the future of flood insurance in Florida somewhat unknown, the state has taken steps to take things into its own hands. Senate Bill 542, aims to build a framework for the private marketplace to offer flood insurance in Florida. One particular feature of this new approach to flood insurance is to allow policyholders the option of covering either the outstanding balance of their mortgages, the replacement cost of their property, or the actual cash value of their property.

Changes in flood insurance situation in Florida is welcomed by many, although there are still concerns, especially that insurance companies may well not want to issue insurance cover in high risk areas.