2013-05-24 / Columnists

Spotlight on Elderlaw

By by Nancy J. Brady, RN, Esq., Brady & Marshak, LLP

Last Wednesday, we were invited by Senator Addabbo’s office to take part in a public discussion in Howard Beach, (at the beautiful new NYFAC building) regarding Post Sandy insurance issues. Speakers at the meeting included architect John Calcagnile, as well as Mike Brothers from Ohlert Ruggiere Insurance.

The discussion began by detailing the history of the federal flood insurance program, as well as the Biggert-Waters National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which will result in changes to the flood insurance program, through decreases in federal subsidies to the insurance. Under the new law, insurance rates will increase overall. These changes, in conjunction with the changes to the flood zone maps, which are due to be finalized within the next couple of weeks, will result in marked increases to flood insurance premiums.

Several important points were made clear at the discussion. As those affected by flooding have discovered, if you are a homeowner, and did not have a flood insurance policy in place, you may have been eligible for some assistance from FEMA. FEMA assistance does not, however, provide assistance for other than one’s primary residence. Additionally, assistance from FEMA is available only one time. If your property is affected by future storms, FEMA assistance will not provide assistance to that property again.

While those with flood insurance discovered that insurance coverage is limited, and settlement amounts are in many cases less than the cost of repair or contents, it is better to be insured against losses than to not be insured. Additionally, in most cases, flood insurance is a mandatory requirement for a mortgage.

For those who do not currently have a flood insurance policy, in order to obtain a policy at the lower rates currently in effect, you must purchase your insurance before the changes to the flood map zones. These changes, as previously stated will be taking place in the next couple of weeks. (If your property was substantially damaged, insurance may not be available to you at the current rates).

With all the uncertainty surrounding those whose homes have been affected by Sandy over the last several months, one thing is certain: increases to the costs of flood insurance!! As homeowners, we can defer part of those costs by obtaining insurance sooner rather than later. Purchasing a flood insurance policy now will “lock in” your premium costs for up to a year. Insurance purchased now will be in effect after 30 days- that means if you have flooding prior to the thirty day period for a new policy, you will not be covered.

It is definite that changes are coming to the flood insurance program. As homeowners, you must do all that you can to protect your property. Sorry to be repetitive, if you do not have a flood insurance policy, your first step in protecting your property is to obtain flood insurance. You should purchase flood insurance before the changes to the flood maps are finalized, to delay having to pay higher premiums. Don’t take a wait and see approach. Flood insurance premiums will be increasing. For now the issue remains how high the increases will be.

You should take part in all discussions related to this topic, so that you will be aware of changes as they take place. Please feel free to call our office to learn of any upcoming meetings. The attorneys can be reached at 1-718-738-8500.

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