Make us your home page
Instagram

Seminole homeowners become flood insurance pioneers

CLEARWATER — When they took a pen in hand, three TV cameras began rolling to capture the moment, jockeying for space with some flash photographers and a half-dozen smartphone users snapping pictures and video.

But the ceremonial signing Wednesday afternoon wasn't to mark a new law, foreign treaty or sports deal.

Joe and Beth Ann Chapman were pioneers in a different way, inking documents that made them the first Florida homeowners to buy a flood policy through the first homeowner insurer approved to sell such coverage in the wake of Florida's flood insurance crisis.

When they bought their Seminole home for $580,000 last September, the Chapmans had heard about Biggert-Waters, the 2012 law leading to sharp flood rate increases for older flood-zone homes. But the couple was told they could keep the seller's existing flood policy for at least a year which, combined with standard hazard and hurricane insurance, cost $9,700.

Instead, they got socked with a $57,000 bill for property insurance: about $3,000 for homeowners and a whopping $54,000 for flood coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Homeowners Choice Insurance offered an alternative the Chapmans quickly embraced: $9,693 in total premiums, including $6,800 for flood.

"We're thrilled that we can find an insurance policy that is affordable," Beth Ann Chapman said.

Private insurers have written flood coverage for decades, but it has been through the federal flood program. The difference now is that Homeowners Choice — and possibly other private insurers — are willing to take on the risk themselves because higher federal premiums are making the market competitive.

Paresh Patel, Homeowners Choice CEO, said he aims to eventually write thousands of flood policies at pre-Biggert Waters rates. "We want to put things back the way they were," Patel said. "Biggert-Waters is an unjust law."

The law, intended to return the federal flood program to solvency, increases rates 20 percent or more a year for homeowners who live in older, flood-zone properties and eliminates subsidized rates entirely after a home is sold. Buyers could be hit with premiums 10 times or more higher than what the previous owner paid.

Only about 20 percent of flood policies nationally are currently subsidized. But Florida is disproportionately affected with the lion's share of subsidized properties. Pinellas County will be the nation's hardest-hit county with more than 50,000 subsidized properties.

Congress for months has been debating a delay of at least part of Biggert-Waters. The Florida Legislature, meanwhile, is considering a measure that could make it easier for other private insurers to follow the lead of Homeowners Choice in writing flood policies.

"We couldn't wait. We can't wait," Joe Chapman said. "Our mortgage company was going to (place) this whole bill on our backs."

Seminole homeowners become flood insurance pioneers 01/22/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 7:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. PunditFact: George Will's comparison of tax preparers, firefighters based on outdated data

    Business

    The statement

    "America has more people employed as tax preparers (1.2 million) than as police and firefighters."

    George Will, July 12 in a column

    The ruling

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Conservative newspaper columnist George Will poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
  2. Appointments at Shutts & Bowen and Tech Data highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Legal

    Retired U.S. Navy Commander Scott G. Johnson has joined Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office as a senior attorney in the firm's Government Contracts and Corporate Law Practice Groups. Johnson brings 15 years of legal experience and 24 years of naval service to his position. At Shutts, Scott will …

    United States Navy Commander (Retired) Scott G. Johnson joins Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office. [Company handout]
  3. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board

    Retail

    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares nearly 25 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower

    Corporate

    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]