The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 18, 2014

Fitzsimmons introduces flood insurance measure

By Sarah Plummer
Associated Press

CHARLESTON — A bill that would create a private flood insurance option was introduced in the West Virginia Senate on Monday.

Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons, the bill sponsor and a democrat from Ohio County, said federal law changes in 2012 under the Bigger-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act have caused significant increases in premiums for West Virginia.

“The National Flood Insurance Program sustained billions of dollars in losses related to costal properties after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. I think a lot of inland properties, especially West Virginia, were kind of an afterthought,” he said.

The increase in insurance premiums has meant homeowners across the state can no longer afford flood insurance on their primary property, Fitzsimmons said.

He added that West Virginians are familiar with inland flood risks, which are drastically different than those in coastal areas. “Most homeowners affected by increased flood insurance costs are trying to protect their primary residence, not a vacation home,” he added.

Fitzsimmons said the increase in cost also has affected home sales across the state. Prospective home buyers who secure a loan through a bank are required to purchase flood insurance. Many individuals are having trouble selling and buying homes in West Virginia because of the insurance increase, he said.

The bill introduced Monday also would allow a greater option of flood insurance plans. In addition to purchasing a plan to replace a home, homeowners could opt to only insure the outstanding amount of their loan.

Senate Bill 621 has been referred to the committee on Banking and Insurance.

The Bigger-Watters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 reauthorized and revised the National Flood Insurance Program. The act increases flood insurance for, among other things, severe repetitive loss properties and damaged properties by requiring premium increases of 25 percent per year until premiums meet the full actuarial cost.