Flood Insurance Changes Raise Questions
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Flood insurance continues to be a thorn in the side of the real estate market in coastal Mississippi - though as MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, much of the challenge now is the complexity of the often-changing federal flood insurance program.

A revision last year to a 2012 flood insurance reform law has helped stabilize rates for many homeowners. But Ken Austin with Mississippi Coast Realty says all of the rapid changes in the program have been a hurdle in itself.

"The rate increases that were originally supposed to happen were a challenge," he says. "Those have been effectively eliminated with the changes in the law in 2014, so now what we're doing is trying to make sure that information is in the hands of our folks so that they know a little bit more about how to work with clients."

Austin was one of the speakers at a flood insurance symposium attended by more than 250 realtors in Gulfport this week. They also heard from flood insurance expert Lisa Sharrard Jones with Carolina Flood Solutions.

"The National Flood Insurance Program is a very confusing program in and of itself," she says."It's a program that changes every six months."

Jones says many of the issues that existed prior to the reform acts are still there. 

"The problem is inherent in how the policies were originally written, not in the impacts of the reform," she says. "So if we start out with everyone being properly rated, everybody would be paying their fair share. But what I'm finding is that there are a lot of policies that are misrated and they're paying too much - for example, the policy may show the house as having a basement, when in actuality the house may have a crawl space."

Jones says there should be more training for insurance agents and for the land surveyors and engineers who fill out elevation certificates. She also recommends home-owners closely read their policies and elevation certificates and ask questions about anything they don't understand.