Flood insurance rate changes underway

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 4:07 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The flood insurance rates for properties are changing.

But there is something many property owners can do now, and for some it could mean lower insurance costs.

WTOC Investigates spoke to an industry expert who says most people with a policy can expect to see either a decrease or an increase of up to $240 on their annual policy.

Here’s a look at what’s behind the changes and what you can do now.

Four years ago - some neighborhoods in Chatham County saw what the power of storm surge and flood waters can do when Hurricane Irma roared ashore.

People who live on Lewis Avenue on Tybee Island and in areas of Burnside Island had flood waters in their homes. Many of them are still dealing with the aftermath of Irma and Matthew.

Major storm and flood events like that one across the country are why the federal flood rates are changing.

“The old system was 50 to 60 years old. It was not accurate. It was based one someone just drawing a line in the sand saying this side does not require flood insurance and this side does require it, which all know is not accurate,” said Steven Fischer, a real estate broker in Savannah.

Fischer has closely studied and followed the flood insurance rate changes. He serves on the National Association of Realtors insurance subcommittee, which formed nine years ago after Congress passed the Biggert Waters Act, which changed flood insurance rates.

“Overnight without any notice people saw their insurance rates skyrocket to monthly premiums that they couldn’t afford and their houses were foreclosed and they lost their houses,” Fischer said. “Because if you can’t pay your flood insurance as required, the bank forecloses.”

This time around the new rate structure is called Risk Rating 2.0.

Fischer says the big change: Data is behind the rate increases and decreases.

“And with that they are looking at the elevation of the land, the elevation of the house and how close you are to the nearest body of water,” he said. “There are many factors but those are the three main factors.”

In Georgia, he said 69 percent of flood insurance policy holders will see an increase of about $120 a year on their annual flood insurance policy. 24 percent will see a decrease in their rate.

The new rates took effect Oct. 1 for anyone who doesn’t have flood insurance and is required to purchase it.

For existing policies, the rollout begins in April 1, and if a property does have increases, it’s expected to be a gradual process over the period of several years.

For existing policy holders, Fischer says there is something you can do right now. Contact your insurance agent and ask about the changes to your flood insurance under the new rate structure.

If your rate is going down - you can renew the policy now to cash in on the savings. If your rate is going up - ask about what you can do to mitigate flooding.

He said under the new rollout, there are more federal grants available to help pay for home improvements to lower your flood risk.

Those improvements include anything from raising your A/C unit off the ground to installing flood vents on your lowest floor elevation.

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