FL homeowners to pay higher rates on insurance

08/20/13 Roberto Roldan
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Florida homeowners are frightened their cost for flood insurance could increase dramatically; one concern is over Florida's loss of federal subsidies beginning in October.

Last year, congress instituted changes to the national flood insurance program that would charge homeowners 25% more per year until their rate reflected the “true risk” for a flood. In addition, starting October 1, Floridians will lose subsidies on their insurance. St. Pete Beach Mayor Steve McFarlin said he has been trying to work with state and federal official to secure more funding or subsidies to keep rates from skyrocketing overnight, but ultimately McFarlin said the decision lies with Congress.

“We’ve had quotes where they are increasing 500 to 600 percent.”

McFarlin warned that if no additional funding could be secured, it could cripple the real estate market along Tampa Bay’s beaches.

“They are showing that if it’s a home that you’ve been in that was built before ’74, those are the ones that are going to see the biggest change. If you stay in the home it will be a gradual increase, but they are saying now that if it gets sold it goes to the full rate.”

Realtor Joan Walker said that flood insurance rate increases have already affected property owners in Pass-a-Grille’s historic districts. Walker said these homeowners are in a particular jam because they cannot elevate their homes or seek elevation certification without losing their historic designation.

“I know my taxes, when I bought a second property in Pass-a-Grille, went from $4,000 to $14,000 the first year I owned it. I ended up having to sell it at a huge loss and for 18 months I had a lis pendins because I couldn't pay it.”

St. Petersburg resident Lloyd Burkley rents out three of his properties, and said he is concerned about how the changes will affect both him and his tenets. He said he sees the flood insurance rate hikes as an inevitable cost of living in a state so close to sea level.

“I don’t think anything can be done about it. I mean the prediction in this morning’s paper was that sea level could raise as much as three feet in the next 90 years. We are looking at a rise in sea levels regardless of what anyone does, so it’s just common sense that it’s going to be more expensive. That’s just the risk you take.”

In addition to the loss of federal subsidies, homeowners with Citizens Property Insurance could see even more rate increases. The Citizens board has proposed raising its overall rates by an average of 7 percent.

Citizens held one-on-one meetings with policyholders Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce on St. Pete Beach.

Citizens Spokesperson Michael Peltier:

“For the Tampa Bay area, what we are looking at are proposed rate increases ranging from 2% to 10.7% in Hillsborough County and from about 6.4% to 10.7% in Pinellas County.

There's a hearing Tuesday afternoon at the Tampa Convention Center where Citizens Insurance policyholders are airing concerns about the rate hike. It goes until 8:00 p.m.

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