Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller Monday told a statewide gathering of affordable housing advocates private market flood insurance is an increasingly available option to help lower costs for homeowners who must buy this product, and in many cases may be much more affordable than coverage through the federal government program.
“Congressionally mandated changes to the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program to phase out subsidies for high risk properties, and the federal government’s re-mapping of many neighborhoods and communities into what are known as special flood hazard areas which had never been there before, has led to the private market entering residential flood insurance for the first time,” Commissioner Miller told the PA Housing Alliance’s annual Homes Within Reach conference in Harrisburg.
“We are finding in many cases, private flood coverage, especially for homes re-mapped into special flood zone hazard areas which have never or rarely experience flooding, can be much less expensive than comparable NFIP coverage,” Commissioner Miller said. She told conference attendees her department has created a one-stop shop for flood insurance information, and urged them to use this information when helping people look for ways to reduce their housing costs. The flood insurance information is at www.insurance.pa.gov, by clicking on “Flood” under “Insurance Coverage Resources.”
Since creating this one-stop flood insurance page in February, approximately 15 insurers licensed in Pennsylvania, and 40 insurance producers selling what is called “surplus lines” coverage have registered on the site.
Surplus lines insurance is written by companies which are not licensed by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, but sold by producers who are licensed in Pennsylvania and must adhere to Pennsylvania laws.
Surplus lines insurers must register with the Insurance Department and they are often licensed by at least one other state. Currently, most private market flood coverage in Pennsylvania is sold through surplus lines, with the largest surplus lines carrier selling flood insurance in Pennsylvania being Lloyd’s of London.
“We have heard from a homeowner who was paying $2,000 a year for an NFIP policy and got private coverage for $400 a year, and another homeowner paying $2,700 annually through NFIP who was able to find comparable private coverage for $718 a year,” Commissioner Miller said, adding these savings could be the difference between whether a family can or cannot afford to keep its home.
She added another homeowner said the high cost of NFIP coverage caused homes in her neighborhood to drop in value from $110,000 to just $45,000, and a realtor who said homeowners could not sell homes because flood insurance was adding $100 a month to the $500 a month mortgage prospective buyers faced, and this cost was too great.
Commissioner Miller cautioned homes in high risk areas that experience frequent flooding will likely not be insured through the private market, and need to stay with the NFIP.
Also, under current federal rules, some mortgage lenders are reluctant to accept private coverage for homes in special flood hazard areas, and homeowners who want to get federal grants to undertake flood mitigation measures, such as raising their home on stilts, must have NFIP coverage.
Standard homeowners insurance typically does not cover flood damage, and while properties outside federally-designated special flood hazard areas are not required to have flood insurance, Commissioner Miller said this may be something homeowners may want to consider.
‘Recent flooding in several north central Pennsylvania counties resulted from a rainstorm that deluged the area with up to 10 inches of rain overnight, flooding homes not in special flood hazard areas and which had not experience flooding previously.
Commissioner Miller said in these areas where flooding rarely happens, coverage through the private market may be inexpensive.
Commissioner Miller commended the conference attendees for working to help more Pennsylvania families find affordable housing.
She noted Gov. Wolf has established consumer protection as the top priority for the Insurance Department, and advocating for more affordable insurance protection, such as that available through private market flood coverage, is an important part of the department’s outreach to homeowners.For more information, visit the Insurance Department’s Flood Insurance webpage.