Florida County Affected by Flood Insurance Hikes

September 30, 2013

Hillsborough County doesn’t have a single house on the Gulf of Mexico and only about 2,000 that directly front a bay.

Nonetheless, there are thousands of other single-family homes – modest bungalows as well as million-dollar mansions – that could be hit with soaring flood insurance rates under a new federal law that takes effect Tuesday.

The Tampa Bay Times reports the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s Office released a map showing approximately 21,800 older homes that until now have qualified for lower, subsidized flood insurance premiums.

Across the bay, the Pinellas property appraiser released its own map last week showing that as many as 33,114 single-family homes in the county – more than one in seven – could face soaring premiums as their subsidized rates are phased out. Contrary to a popular perception, most of the affected Pinellas properties are not gulf-front McMansions but more modest homes, some of them well inland.

“I think we all tend to associate flood areas with the coastline, but the vast majority are not out on the coastline,” said Pat Alesandrini, director of valuation for the property appraiser.

Only about 2,000 of the homes are considered “coastal” – defined as those areas subject to flooding from waves on Tampa Bay, Hillsborough Bay or Old Tampa Bay. The rest are on or near lakes, rivers, and even retention ponds.

“They’re absolutely everywhere,” Alesandrini said, noting that thousands sit inland in areas like Riverview, FishHawk Ranch, Plant City, Brandon, Seffner, Carrollwood and Lutz.

“They just kind of sprawl all over,” he said.

All of them could see their discounted rates phased out as a result of the Biggert-Waters Act, passed by Congress in an effort to return the National Flood Insurance Program to solvency.

The Hillsborough map does not show condos or businesses, but they too could be charged much higher rates.

Real estate agents say the law takes effect at a particularly inopportune time.

Travis Bell, an agent with Keller Williams, notes that prospective buyers used to order home and termite inspections before thinking about insurance. But now, more and more are paying up to $200 for a flood elevation certificate, so they can get an insurance quote before proceeding.

“It’s an added cost,” he said, “but we want to make sure the insurance costs are not astronomical.”

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