Tampa Bay area residents seeking cheaper flood insurance options have lost one of their lifelines. At least temporarily.
The Flood Insurance Agency, a Gainesville-based company offering flood policies backed by Lloyds of London, told insurance agents Wednesday that it had stopped writing new policies effective immediately in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties because it had reached capacity.
It will continue to write flood policies in other areas and will review its decision within 60 days. An agency representative could not comment late Wednesday on how many policies it currently writes in the area.
Lloyds, the venerable British-based institution, began offering flood insurance in Florida through the Gainesville operation a year ago as the impact of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act began to be felt. In April, the Flood Insurance Agency lowered its rates significantly.
St. Petersburg insurance agent Jake Holehouse said it was a matter of the agency "growing too much, too fast," and it wasn't able to build up its business elsewhere in Florida at the same pace.
Holehouse said the news is mitigated, however, by changes to Biggert-Waters that got rid of some of the more stunning rate hikes in the FEMA-run National Flood Insurance Program. There are also now more options to federal flood insurance, including Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty and two other agencies authorized to write Lloyds flood policies, he said.