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South Florida Residents should Know their Rights when Dealing with Flood Insurance

Channel 10 News in Tampa is the latest to report on the ongoing saga involving the federal flood insurance program.

As our Miami insurance dispute attorneys reported on our Florida Insurance Claim Blog, Congress has extended the program in fits and starts, often just a few months at a time. When the program is unavailable, it causes huge headaches for homebuyers, who cannot qualify for a mortgage without flood insurance.

Further complicating the matter, are new FEMA maps that have been decried as inaccurate and frequently require flood insurance of homeowners in areas with no history and little real threat of flooding.

While South Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Letinen is among the supporters of the program, it has come under heavy fire for questionable payouts. Additionally, about 1 million policies are riskier than their premiums would suggest, leaving taxpayers to foot the remainder of the bill.

FEMA records show about 20,000 properties have collected on claims in excess of their value — sometimes far in excess of their value. Channel 10 reports on a $153,000 Alabama home that has received more than $2 million in claims.

Others are receiving discounts for rental or vacation properties. In Longboat Key, a wealthy resort area near Sarasota, a direct hit from a hurricane could cause an estimated $13 billion in damages, yet nearly half (48 percent) of homeowners receive discounts because the homes are not their primary residences.

In other cases, homeowners file claims storm after storm for recurring damage to the same poorly situated and vulnerable property. Pinellas County has reported $72 million in repetitive claims; Pasco County has had $32 million. Statewide, more than $1.3 trillion in repetitive claims have been paid out.

Currently the flood insurance program is $19 billion in the red.

From a practical standpoint, the issues with the flood insurance program can make it more difficult for a homeowner to file a legitimate claim; may increase the risk of a denial; and can subject legitimate claims to excessive wait times. Consulting a storm damage attorney in South Florida is often your best bet when dealing with a substantial insurance claim.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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