Should You Consider Private Flood Insurance?

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Thirty years ago, when I was starting my real estate career, I met Bill Ross and his wife Hope and had the privilege of helping them sell their home in Lancaster County.  Since that time, Bill has become a managing partner of Ross Insurance Agency and spurred its growth to one of the premier, independent insurance agencies in Lancaster County.

Over the past month, we have witnessed the devastating damage caused by floodwaters in the state of Texas.  Many of the images we have seen are of quaint residential neighborhoods that were destroyed by the torrential rain dumped on this area by Hurricane Harvey.  What is even more astounding is that most of these flooded areas are not in a flood zone as defined by the government. Homeowners are left wondering, “Could this happen to me?”

Bill recently wrote an article that appeared on the Lancaster County Association of REALTORS® blog, “Closing Comments”, that I thought was both interesting and informative.  Hope it provides you with valuable insight and helps you determine whether private flood insurance is something you should consider.

A Flood of Change

“I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen flooding like this.”

That’s a common lament of flood victims, especially those who thought that they lived outside the flood zone of a nearby creek, river or ocean and who have realized that their homeowner’s policy, condo unit-owner’s policy, renter’s policy or even business policy does not cover the damage caused by a flood.

As recent floods are showing, you don’t have to live in a flood zone to have flood damage.  In fact, ever year, a significant percentage of flood damage happens to property that is NOT in a flood zone.  Most of these property owners do not carry flood insurance, so they are left to fend for themselves.

Traditionally, flood insurance was sold only through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which was backed by the Federal Government (FEMA).  Flood zones were mapped out, and rates were standardized, depending on which “flood zone” your property happened to be in.

Well, the times they are a-changin’.  FEMA recently redrew the flood zone maps, so many property owners who were not in a flood zone have suddenly discovered they ARE NOW in one.  And at roughly the same time, since the passage of the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012, which was designed to reflect the true risk of living in flood-prone areas, FEMA is phasing out subsidies for higher risk properties, so many flood insurance policyholders are seeing their premiums increase significantly year after year.

Now, to the rescue comes a new product called “Private Flood Insurance”, which gives many property owners a choice.  You may now be eligible to purchase flood insurance through a private insurance company at a lower rate . . . often a MUCH lower rate.

This private coverage is typically written by what are known as Surplus Lines Insurance Companies, which means they are not licensed by the PA Insurance Department and are not covered by the PA Property and Casualty Guaranty Association, but this has nothing to do with the financial strength and stability of the carrier.  In fact, the largest surplus lines carrier selling flood insurance in Pennsylvania is Lloyd’s of London, according to a PA Insurance Department news release.

Ronald Ruman, director of communications at the PA Insurance Department, recently said that Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller asked her staff to look at ways to help homeowners find affordable coverage and found that in many cases, comparable flood insurance coverage was being offered through the private market at much lower rates than those offered through NFIP.

Bottom line, if you own property, whether it’s your home, your business or an investment, you should at least be considering flood insurance.  And the good news is, you may no longer be locked into dealing with the government program or the government rates.

If you would like to obtain additional information on private flood insurance, I’ve provided Bill’s contact email below.

Bill Ross, Managing Partner
Ross Insurance Agency
Email Bill

Thanks for the insight, Bill.

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