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Watch out! Flood insurance rate hikes could be huge | News

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Watch out! Flood insurance rate hikes could be huge
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Tampa, FL -- Huge and expensive changes may be coming your way in the next few weeks if you have a flood insurance policy.

In some cases, your lender may even require you to carry the coverage.

That has some people worried it could force them out of their homes because in some cases, the new cost of coverage is so expensive people can't afford it.

In some cases flood polices that used to cost hundreds may increase by thousands of dollars more a year.

And it's not just expensive waterfront homes that will see the increase; we're talking about property all over the Bay Area in flood zones and low-lying areas.

Orlando De la Paz's mother-in-law just bought a modest home in South Tampa three weeks ago. But it sits in a flood zone, and now they're already worried an impending disaster could force her from it.

It's not a hurricane or flood that has them so concerned, it's their flood insurance.

The huge premium increase about to go into effect in just a few weeks could be more than they can afford.

"She is really concerned. You know she's an elderly lady in her 60's and this is her savings and her life," said De la Paz. "She might have to sell the house."

The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 is set to go into effect October 1st unless congress stops or delays it. Many people don't even know it - and may not - until they get the bad news in their renewal notices.

The premium increases designed to replenish a $20 Billion dollar FEMA shortfall in the wake of disasters like Katrina and super-storm Sandy.

Photos: Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy

Current homeowners with properties built before 1975 would see incremental increases over five years, but new buyers would have to start paying the new premiums immediately.

"I have buyers now, that we're having to re-evaluate the price point that we're looking at," said Tampa realtor Cristan Fadal.

Fadal and others in the real estate business are worried the new law could devastate the recovering real estate market.

In some areas, flood insurance premiums could price buyers out as the added expense goes from a few hundred dollars a year to well over ten thousand in some areas.

"And probably the misconception is people are thinking 'all these big homes that are on the water, they should be paying their fair share'," said Fadal. "But at the end of the day, there are a lot of people that live in flood zones that don't live in million dollar mansions."

Those are the people, says Fadal, who will get hit the hardest because they can least afford the increase.

And if you think this is a problem just for property owners, think again. Renters could feel the impact too.

Landlords and real estate investors like Dan Pepper who owns a multi-unit apartment building in Tampa says owners can only absorb so much. This - will almost certainly be passed along to tenants.

"You know if you're talking about a landscaping charge of $25 a month, that can be absorbed, but when we're talking here with flood insurance doubling or tripling, that could incredibly affect the rent the tenants have to pay," said Pepper.

In some cases entire low-lying neighborhoods could feel the impact.

Between higher taxes, skyrocketing hurricane premiums, and now this, "It's just going to be terrible. I really think so," said De la Paz. "Some people will have to move. So people will have to sell."

More money being spent on flood insurance also means less money in people's pockets to spend in the local economy, so relators are concerned this could also have a ripple effect beyond the real estate market as well.

How do you know if your home is in a flood zone? Most property appraiser websites will have a link where you can plug in your address to check. Here are a few:

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