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Insurer begins offering pre-Biggert-Waters flood insurance rates

8:02 PM, Jan 22, 2014   |    comments
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Joe and Bethann Chapman signed their new policy with Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Company in front of cameras, reporters and others.
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Clearwater, FL -- After buying a 3,000-square-foot home in Seminole last fall, Joe and Bethann Chapman saw their annual flood insurance bill go from roughly $9,000 to more than $50,000.

"To pay $54,000 for flood insurance for $250,000 in coverage is just absolutely outrageous," Bethann Chapman told 10 News.

But Wednesday, the couple became the first to be issued a flood insurance policy by Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Company. The Chapman's premium with Homeowners Choice will be just under $9,700.

"It's just a tremendous difference!"

The couple signed their new policy in front of cameras, reporters and others gathered at the Pinellas Realtors Organization offices in Clearwater.

The company's founder then told the crowd the Chapmans are just the first of many the insurer hopes to help.

"If we can write one policy we can write 2, if we can write 2 we can write 20, if we can write 20 we can write 2,000. This is how the problem is going to be solved, by Floridians for Florida," Paresh Patel said.

State regulators gave Homeowners Choice the approval to begin issuing flood insurance in December. It was the first carrier to be allowed to issue flood insurance in Florida since the Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act of 2012 was passed.

SEE ALSO: House passes $1 trillion spending bill; will relief come from rising flood insurance hikes?

Patel says those eligible must live in a flood zone and live in a home built before 1975. He says the policy limits will be $250,000 for the home and $100,000 for contents. A standard detectable will be 2%.

Patel said a willingness to do what's right is one reason the insurer is offering pre-Biggert-Waters rates.

But a senior financial analyst with Weiss Ratings worries Homeowners Choice, which was founded in 2007, may be growing too fast. Weiss gives the company a "D" rating.

"However, I would say if concerns over the growth are addressed and capital reserves and liquidity are maintained or improved then we would certainly be looking to consider an upgrade for them," Gavin Magor told 10 News by phone on Wednesday.

Still, the Chapmans say they're relieved and pleased with the policy they were able to sign.

"This is just a glimmer of hope in what has been a really devastating occurrence in the whole marketplace," said Bethann Chapman.

"Hopefully all of the other companies will follow now that they know it's possible and hopefully we can continue living in paradise like we used to last year," added Patel.

Homeowners Choice has set-up a Flood Hotline to answer questions, the number is 1-844-HC-FLOOD.

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