BRADENTON, Fla. - Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney has taken legal action in an attempt to prevent what he called “draconian” federal flood insurance rate increases.
Chaney filed a 110-page suit in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Mississippi Sept. 26 seeking an injunction to stop the new flood insurance rates from going into effect Oct. 1.
He said “rate increases threaten to bankrupt many Mississippi homeowners.” However, he acknowledged the rate increases are occurring everywhere subsidized flood insurance is offered.
“Congress passed the Biggert-Waters act of 2012 and severe consequences are surfacing,” Chaney said in a statement. “There is real conflict and reform is needed.”
In some places, he said consumers will see rate increase of more than 3,000% because the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been changing base flood elevation maps, which are used to determine properties in danger of flooding.
“Many of the new flood elevation maps are riddled with errors and consumers must pay for new elevation certificates to prove they are not in a flood zone,” Chaney said.
Most property owners will see annual rate increases between 20% and 25% until they are up to actuarial levels that reflect the true risk of the properties being insured.
In addition to an injunction delaying rate increases, Chaney is asking a federal judge to find that FEMA did not produce an “affordability” report also required of Biggert-Waters to determine the impact of the new rates on property owners.
Chaney wants the judge to require that the implementation of new rates be delayed for at least six months after the affordability report is delivered to Congress.
Other Gulf Coast state officials have urged Congress to delay the rate increases, though some have said it is unlikely with lawmakers facing looming decisions over the federal budget and debt ceiling.
The Biggert-Waters Act was passed because of deficits in the National Flood Insurance Program. Congress enacted NFIP because private insurers refused to cover flooding.