Seminar addresses flood insurance concerns

Published 8:20 pm Monday, March 31, 2014

Business and home owners with questions about national flood insurance reform can get those questions answered Thursday at the Turnage Theater in Washington.

Sponsored by Bragaw Insurance and Coldwell Banker Coastal Rivers Realty, two free seminars featuring a national training coordinator for Wright Flood, the nation’s largest flood insurance provider, will be held at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

In 2012, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 was passed at the federal level, with a potential outcome that would have seen insurance premiums rise exponentially for home and business owners located in areas with a higher risk of flood. While BW12 was intended to balance the budget of a fiscally unsound National Flood Insurance Program, the consequences of unaffordable rate increases caused a backlash across the country. As a result, last month, a revised version, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.

According to local real estate and insurance representatives, for many people who have been affected or stand to be affected by the reform in the future, questions remain.

“The community needs to be involved and be proactive,” said Carol Lyne, training director with Coldwell Banker Coastal Rivers Realty. “We have made extensive invitations to everybody in the community. Everybody who needs, or should be there, will hopefully be there.”

Lyne and Bragaw Insurance President Walker Lynch decided to host the seminars together once they realized both agencies were working separately to get information about flood insurance reform out to the public.

“We decided to sponsor it together,” Lyne said. “That’s why there’s no cost to anybody. … If we get a good enough turnout, we’re considering repeating it next month in Bath and Belhaven.”

According to a release from Wright Flood, some important highlights of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act include the following:

Removes the sale of a property as a trigger to go directly to actuarial rates and establishes a glide path to reach actuarial rates through annual premium increase caps.

Requires FEMA to make refunds to policyholders with new policies after July 6, 2012, that were required to pay actuarial rates due to the BW12 Flood Reforms.

Annual premium increases will be limited to a minimum 5-percent increase and a maximum 18-percent increase, whereas under BW12, there was no minimum and a 20-percent maximum.

Allows grandfathering rules in effect today within the NFIP to remain.

Maintains 25-percent premium increases for non-primary homes, business properties and severe repetitive loss properties.

Lyne said the Affordability Act was a delay — that higher premiums will come eventually, which is why the two companies are working to inform those who stand to be affected.

“Well, (the seminar is) going to be on the criteria that underwriters are going to be looking at. The criteria is changing. The flood insurance rates, which are going to be significantly higher, if not immediately, they are certainly going to be edged up over time,” Lyne said. “This is going to be a very, very big issue for this community, predominantly for waterfront properties.”

Lyne said Thursday’s seminars are an opportunity for the public to ask questions and have concerns addressed.

The Turnage Theater is located at 150 W. Main St., Washington.