Florida homeowners are in the dark about flood insurance, expert says
Published in Business News
After the back-to-back named storms last year left billions of dollars in flood losses across Florida, one organization is warning that major reforms are needed to government regulations and flood insurance, especially inland as climate change makes storms wetter and more powerful.
As of January, FEMA, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program, has paid out more than $2 billion of a projected $5.3 billion in flood claims from Hurricane Ian, according to the agency.
FEMA estimates 40,000 residential properties in metro Orlando are located in special hazard flood areas but only 18% of homeowners in Florida carry flood insurance.
Across the state, the Association of State Floodplain Managers estimates uninsured flood losses from Ian to be between $10 billion and $17 billion.
Chris Brown, executive director of SmarterSafer, a nonprofit that pushes for better disaster preparedness, says that’s how little homeowners understand about flood risks.
“We need better education so that people can make changes,” Brown said. “Even people who are legally required to have flood insurance don’t always [have it].”
In Florida, home sellers are not required to disclose whether a home has previously had flood damage, according to Lisa Hill, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.
“We also always recommend that buyers get a home inspection before closing,” Hill said. “Inspectors can easily tell if a property was once wet.”
As storms become stronger, Brown warns that it isn’t only homes in designated flood zones that are at risk. A peer-reviewed study by universities in California and New York concluded climate change likely increased Ian’s rainfall by 10%.
Theresa Rogers’ home in Orlando’s Kingswood neighborhood flooded during Ian when a tree on her street fell and blocked the storm drain. Water got as deep as 10 inches in some rooms, Rogers said, requiring all her floors to be refinished, doors to be replaced and more.
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