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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Commissioner says 'buy now'

The state's insurance commissioner has urged homeowners in the Florida Keys and other areas to buy federally subsidized flood insurance before rates increase in October.

The Florida Keys are one of several coastal areas of the state that is covered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Under the terms of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, rates will increase for new and renewed NFIP policies starting on Oct. 1. Policies have to be renewed every year and policyholders would be subject to the increase next year.

Property owners could see as much as a 25 percent per year increase until they reflect the full risk-rate, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) web site.

FEMA spokeswoman Mary Olsen could not provide exact rate increases for the Florida Keys or specifically how many property owners in the Keys will be affected.

"We don't have average premium increase figures available right now," Olsen said. "Every person's risk is different and the premiums are really going to vary based on their individual situation."

Later in 2013, there will be premium increases for additional categories of subsidized properties, including business properties, according to FEMA.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty is encouraging Floridians to make preparations for the upcoming 2013 hurricane season by purchasing flood insurance.

"Florida's risk for severe weather is well-known, and even though a hurricane has not impacted our state in recent years, several tropical storms have caused significant flood damage to many Floridians," McCarty said in a prepared statement. "Regardless of the storm type, I strongly urge Floridians to prepare now and purchase flood insurance by May 1, as a typical flood insurance policy takes 30 days to become effective. This will ensure you are covered on June 1, the first day of hurricane season."

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Nearly 75 percent of Key West, and areas throughout the Lower Keys, were severely flooded when Hurricane Wilma brushed the Keys in 2005.

Flood insurance is a requirement of most mortgages in the Keys. Florida homeowners can purchase flood insurance from NFIP for up to $250,000 for property damage and $100,000 for personal contents, according to Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Excess flood insurance can be purchased for homes valued at more than $250,000. NFIP coverage is also available for commercial structures at $500,000 for building coverage and $500,000 for contents coverage.

tohara@keysnews.com

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