On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014
This law repeals and modifies certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act,
which was enacted in 2012, and makes additional program changes to other aspects of the program not
covered by that Act. Many provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act remain and are
still being implemented.
While FEMA actively works to implement the new law, we encourage policyholders to maintain and
keep current flood insurance policies. FEMA does NOT recommend cancelling a flood insurance
policy. Cancelling flood insurance policies now will leave policyholders unprotected during spring flooding and
may cause policyholders to lose important discounts on their rate if they reinstate in the future.
The new law lowers the recent rate increases on some policies, prevents some future rate increases,
and implements a surcharge on all policyholders. The Act also repeals certain rate increases that
have already gone into effect and provides for refunds to those policyholders. The Act also
authorizes additional resources for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to complete the
FEMA looks forward to working with Congress, the private Write Your Own insurance companies,
and other stakeholders to implement these Congressionally mandated reforms and to working toward
our shared goals of helping families maintain affordable flood insurance, ensuring the financial
stability of the NFIP, and reducing the risks and consequences of flooding nationwide. FEMA will
also continue to identify and publish special flood hazards and flood risk zones as authorized and
required by Congress.
FEMA has actively begun analyzing and prioritizing implementation of the new law. We will be
working with the private Write Your Own insurance companies in the next few weeks to seek their
input and expertise prior to issuing business practice bulletins.
It is not possible for changes to happen immediately. While the new law does require some changes
to be made retroactively, applying to certain policies written after July 6, 2012, other changes require
establishment of new programs, processes and procedures.
FEMA’s initial priority is assessing potential changes to the NFIP’s business processes to stop policy
increases for certain subsidized policyholders as outlined in the Act.
FEMA also plans to issue guidance in the months ahead for the Write Your Own insurance
companies to begin issuing refunds as outlined in the law for some policyholders who were
previously impacted by subsidy phase outs.
More information on the new law and its impacts on the NFIP will be forthcoming.
For certain flood insurance policies affected by the Pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map (Pre-FIRM)
subsidy elimination required by BW-12, the new law mandates refunds of the excess premiums that
those policyholders were charged pursuant to the requirements of BW-12. Refunds will not affect all
subsidized policyholders who received rate increases as directed by Congress in BW-12, only
policyholders for whom the rate increases under BW-12 were revoked by the new law. Refunds will
affect only a small percentage of the overall NFIP policy base.
o Prior to restoring and refunding premiums, FEMA is required by the Homeowner Flood
Insurance Affordability Act to consult with its partner insurers (Write-Your-Own insurance
companies or WYOs) to develop guidance and rate tables.
o In accordance with the new law, FEMA will work to develop and finalize its guidance and
rate tables within eight months.
o The law provides WYO insurance companies between six and eight months to implement the
changes and update systems to implement the guidance.
FEMA is working closely with the WYO insurance companies to develop a timetable for processing
REFUNDS APPLY TO:
o Policyholders in high-risk areas who were required to pay their full-risk rate after purchasing
a new flood insurance policy on or after July 6, 2012.
REFUNDS MAY APPLY TO:
o Policyholders who renewed their policy after the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability
Act was enacted on March 21, 2014 and whose premium increased more than 18 percent .
REFUNDS DO NOT APPLY TO:
o Policyholders paying the 25 percent annual rate increases, as required by Congress in BW-
12, for a Pre-FIRM subsidized non-primary residence, business, Severe Repetitive Loss
property, or building that was substantially damaged or improved.
o Policyholders whose full-risk premium is less than the Pre-FIRM subsidized premium, or
who were not overcharged according to any retroactive revisions to the Pre-FIRM subsidized
rates required by the new law.
Policyholders who saw usual, annual rate increases in 2013 or 2014, or policyholders who paid the 5
percent fee, as required by BW-12, for the NFIP Reserve Fund, will only see a refund if their
premium renewal was after March 21, 2014 and their total premium, including the reserve fund,
exceeded 18 percent.
PREMIUM RATES FOR SUBSIDIZED POLICIES
The new law requires gradual rate increases to properties now receiving artificially low (or
subsidized) rates instead of immediate increases to full-risk rates required in certain cases under
FEMA is required to increase premiums for most subsidized properties by no less than 5 percent
annually until the class premium reaches its full-risk rate. It is important to note that close to 80
percent of NFIP policyholders paid a full-risk rate prior to either BW-12 or HFIAA, and are
minimally impacted by either law.
With limited exceptions flood insurance premiums cannot increase more than 18 percent annually.
o There are some exceptions to these general rules and limitations, The most important of these
exceptions is that policies for the following properties will continue to see up to a 25 percent
annual increases as required by BW-12 until they reach their full-risk rate: Older business
properties insured with subsidized rates;
o Older non-primary residences insured with subsidized rates;
o Severe Repetitive Loss Properties insured with subsidized rates;
o and buildings that have been substantially damaged or improved built before the local
adoption of a Flood Insurance Rate Map (known as Pre-FIRM properties).
In order to enable new purchasers of property to retain Pre-FIRM rates while FEMA is developing
its guidelines, a new purchaser will be allowed to assume the prior owner’s flood insurance policy
and retain the same rates until the guidance is finalized. Also, lapsed policies receiving Pre-FIRM
subsidized rates may be reinstated with Pre-FIRM subsidized rates pending FEMA’s implementation
of the rate increases required by the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.
NEW SURCHARGE ON ALL POLICIES
A new surcharge will be added to all policies to offset the subsidized policies and achieve the
financial sustainability goals of BW-12. A policy for a primary residence will include a $25
surcharge. All other policies will include a $250 surcharge. The fee will be included on all policies,
including full-risk rated policies, until all Pre-FIRM subsidies are eliminated.
The new law repeals a provision of BW-12 that required FEMA, upon the effective date of a new or
updated Flood Insurance Rate Map, to phase in premium increases over five years by 20 percent a
year to reflect the current risk of flood to a property, effectively eliminating FEMA’s ability to
grandfather properties into lower risk classes.
Also for newly mapped in properties, the new law sets first year premiums at the same rate offered
to properties located outside the Special Flood Hazard Area (preferred risk policy rates).
With limited exceptions, flood insurance premiums cannot increase more than 18 percent annually.
FLOOD INSURANCE ADVOCATE
The new law requires FEMA to designate a Flood Insurance Advocate to advocate for the fair
treatment of NFIP policy holders.
The Advocate will:
o Educate property owners and policyholders on individual flood risks; flood mitigation;
measures to reduce flood insurance rates through effective mitigation; the flood insurance
rate map review and amendment process; and any changes in the flood insurance program as
a result of any newly enacted laws;
o Assist policy holders and property owners to understand the procedural requirements related
to appealing preliminary flood insurance rate maps and implementing measures to mitigate
evolving flood risks;
o Assist in the development of regional capacity to respond to individual constituent concerns
about flood insurance rate map amendments and revisions;
o Coordinate outreach and education with local officials and community leaders in areas
impacted by proposed flood insurance rate map amendments and revisions; and
Federal Emergency Management Agency
o Aid potential policy holders in obtaining and verifying accurate and reliable flood insurance
rate information when purchasing or renewing a flood insurance policy.
The new law permits FEMA to account for property specific flood mitigation that is not part of the
insured structure in determining a full-risk rate.
The law requires that residential basement floodproofing be considered when developing full-risk
rates after a map changes increasing the Base Flood Elevation in an area where residential basement
floodproofing is permitted.
The law mandates that FEMA develop an installment plan for non-escrowed flood insurance
premiums, which will require changes to regulations and the Standard Flood Insurance Policy
The law increases maximum deductibles.
The law encourages FEMA to minimize the number of policies where premiums exceed 1-percent of
the coverage amount, and requires FEMA to report such premiums to Congress.
DRAFT AFFORDABILITY FRAMEWORK
The new law requires FEMA to prepare a draft affordability framework, which is due to Congress 18
months after completion of the affordability study required by BW-12. The Affordability Study
required by BW-12 is underway and is being conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, as
specified in the BW-12 law.
In developing the affordability framework, FEMA must consider:
o accurate communication to customers of the flood risk,
o targeted assistance based on financial ability to pay,
o individual and community actions to mitigate flood risk or lower cost of flood insurance,
o the impact of increases in premium rates on participation in NFIP,
o and the impact of mapping update on affordability of flood insurance.
The affordability framework will include proposals and proposed regulations for ensuring flood
insurance affordability among low-income populations.
The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act requires the Technical Mapping Advisory
Council (TMAC) to review the new national flood mapping program authorized under the 2012 and
2014 flood insurance reform laws. The law requires the Administrator to certify in writing to
Congress that FEMA is utilizing “technically credible” data and mapping approaches. The law also
requires FEMA to submit the TMAC review report to Congress.
FEMA will be looking to the TMAC for recommendations on how best to meet the legislatively
mandated mapping requirements for the new mapping program including the identification of
residual risk areas, coastal flooding information, land subsidence, erosion, expected changes in flood
hazards with time, and others.
As the new national flood mapping program is being established, FEMA expects there will be
opportunities to make incremental improvements to current procedures as it provides flood hazard
data and information under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). FEMA will make those
improvements where necessary to ensure all ongoing changes to flood hazards continue to be
effectively communicated, mitigated, and properly insured against.
The law lifts the $250,000 limit on the amount that FEMA can spend to reimburse homeowners for
successful map appeals based on a scientific or technical error. Federal rulemaking is required in
order to implement this provision.
FEMA is authorized to account for reconstruction or improvements of flood protection, not just new
construction. It authorizes FEMA to consider the existing present value of a levee when assessing
adequate progress for the reconstruction of an existing flood protection system. The law extends
certain provisions related to NFIP requirements in areas restoring disaccredited flood protection
systems to coastal levees and clarifies that the levee needs to be considered without regard to the
level of federal funding for the original construction or the restoration.
The law exempts mapping fees for flood map changes due to habitat restoration projects, dam
removal, culvert re-design or installation, or the installation of fish passages.
The law requires FEMA to consider the effects of non-structural flood control features, such as
dunes, and beach and wetland restoration when it maps the special flood hazard area.
The law requires FEMA to enhance coordination with communities before and during mapping
activities and requires FEMA to report certain information to members of Congress for each State
and congressional district affected by preliminary maps.