St. Charles Herald-Guide

Businesses built before 83 could see big rise in insurance

Kyle Barnett - October 4, 2013

After months and months of debate and lobbying on behalf local homeowners, the enaction date for the Biggert-Waters Act came and went on Oct. 1 with little fanfare.

Congress has failed to take significant action to repeal or delay the Biggert-Waters Act and it is now the law of the land. That means as insurance policies begin to renew, some property owners may be in for a surprise.

St. Charles Parish Coastal Zone Manager Earl Matherne said while most property owners will not see any effects because flood maps proposed in March that would reclassify many areas of the parish as flood zones for the first time have been delayed, there will be a few notable exceptions.

“Without the map actually having changed the changes in St. Charles are minimal. The big changes will come with pre-FIRM policies,” he said. “We are talking mostly about commercial.”

Matherne said the commercial structures built before St. Charles Parish became part of the National Flood Insurance Program in 1983, also known as pre-FIRM, on Highway 90 in Boutte will likely see the most effects. When commercial flood insurance policies begin to renew those property owners may be required to pay thousands of dollars per year.

“In Boutte everything is about the same height, because most of those were built before 1983,” he said. “It is kind of a nationwide wait and see who gets the bills, which is scary because it means you don’t know. It could be a handful of properties and it could be 75 percent of them.”

Matherne said he really does not know how the Biggert-Waters Act will begin to be enacted, especially with the current government shutdown, but he expects to soon begin hearing from affected property owners who are presented with exorbitant flood insurance bills.

“It’s a matter of time before their current policies, if they have them, expire and come up for renewal,” he said.