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FloodingOct. 11--Some Keys residents might qualify for a refund of their flood insurance premiums from the Federal Emergency Management Agency starting this month, but it likely won't be much.

Monday at the Marathon Government Center, David Miller, associate administrator of FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, told residents, local elected officials, construction managers and others what to expect under the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act. U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia called the meeting.

Congress passed the Affordability Act in March in response to the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act that took effect last year. That law caused flood premiums to go through the roof for countless numbers of people throughout the U.S. Florida property owners were hit the hardest.

The Affordability Act delays for four years premium hikes for many property owners that were caused by Biggert-Waters to give FEMA time to come up with better risk models.

Most property owners in the Keys have their flood insurance through FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program. Banks require it for mortgages.

Miller said Monday that rebates for those hit under Biggert-Waters will average around $100.

"A lot of people will say 'I thought I was due a rebate' or 'I got one but wanted it to be more,' " Miller said. "We're hoping that the refunds will be done by the first of the year. [The process] will be confusing."

The owners of second homes and so-called pre-FIRM houses were hit the hardest under Biggert-Waters.

Pre-FIRM (flood insurance rate maps) houses are those built prior to January 1975, when FEMA's flood insurance rate maps were created. Many of these homes are older and built at or below base level elevation.

The refunds are expected to last until Dec. 31.

While the rebates will be available to a wide-range of property owners, some policies are expected to increase until they reach their current full-risk rate. They include:
  • Older business properties with subsidized rates.
  • Older non-primary residences insured with subsidized rates.
  • "Severe repetitive loss" properties insured with subsidized rates.
  • Buildings that have been substantially damaged or improved after local adoption of flood insurance maps.
County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, a co-founder of the grassroots group Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe, told Miller and other FEMA representatives that the disaster relief agency needs to address covering homes in high-risk areas in a more affordable approach.

"There needs to be a new way to adjust rates," Carruthers said, noting that insurance rates change for buildings depending on what they're used for. The commissioner pointed out how a vacation home and a business have different rates, even if they're the same building type and side by side.

"Why are their rates different?" she asked.

Miller attributed the disparities between policies to FEMA's ongoing mapping efforts and changes to insurance imposed by Congress. Miller agreed risk assessment needs to change but is unsure how it can be applied to homes in high-risk areas.

"Part of the discussion on flood insurance is how do we change behaviors of people who live and work in a high-risk area?" Miller he said. "If you want to be scared, look at the investment you made, take insurance away and ask what will replace it. This is one of the most important discussions you will have."

Make sure you're protected. Call Prestige Insurance Group, Inc. at (305) 969-8776 for more information on Florida flood insurance.

(Article courtesy: William Axford of Florida Keys Keynoter via Insurance Newsnet)
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