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Economy / Business

Beach Residents Seek Answers on Insurance

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Bobbie O'Brien
/
WUSF Public Media

More than two dozen residents from Pinellas County's beach communities signed up for one-on-one meetings with Citizens Insurance staff Tuesday morning in St. Pete Beach.

The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce and Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes arranged the meetings.

“Just seeing the amount of people who are out here,” Brandes said, “We’re excited to see people get a chance to interact with their insurance company and I think we need to make Citizens much more customer friendly.”

He added that the state-run insurer, Citizens, is prohibited by lawmakers from increasing rates more than 10 percent in one year.

However, many of the beach residents were more concerned about their flood insurance rates. Premiums have skyrocketed for some  in the National Flood Insurance Program because 2012 reforms mandated that insurance rates reflect true flood risk.

Laurie Laurenty, an insurance agent with Solutions  Insurance Group in Tierra Verde, got an appointment to talk to Citizens staff about recent rule changes. But she said her clients are more upset about the flood insurance rate increases that have come about due to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.

“There will be no more grandfathering. You won’t buy a house and assume someone’s flood policy,” Laurenty said. “You’re going to go to the new rates. So if that house at that time was built on ground,  like this building, (Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber) is, their rates could go up times 10.”

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Credit Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media
/
WUSF Public Media
Many homes on the beaches were built before the first flood maps which means they could get hit with soaring insurance premiums.

She said she saw a premium for one beach property that increased to $29,000. Laurenty is worried the higher flood insurance rates will dry up the beaches’ real estate market because the premiums could make the homes too costly.

Starting on January 1, 2013, premiums went up 25 percent for homeowners with subsidized rates for homes that are not a primary residence and property built prior to the first flood maps. The insurance rates will continue to increase by 25 percent yearly until they reflect the full risk rates.

On October 1, 2013, owners of businesses properties that are subsidized, properties with severe repetitive losses, lapsed flood policies and some others will see their flood insurance rates increase 25 percent annually until their premiums are the same as the full risk rates.

Here’s a video explaining reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpeqSQr3ngY&feature=share&list=UUHMck7Qh7gAf7o4qnPu84IA