Jeremy Sheppard said when he and his wife bought a house in 2012, they knew they would have to pay flood insurance.
What they didn’t expect was for premiums to increase until they cost more than the mortgage.
“Out of nowhere this past December because of Biggert-Waters, I came home from vacation over Christmas and I had a bill stating my flood insurance had went up to about $2,800,” said Sheppard of New Martinsville. “I was told I needed to have what’s called an elevation certification done. That itself is $500 and a surveyor comes into see how far above or below flood stage you are.”
Once that certification was complete, Sheppard thought maybe his flood insurance would go down. When the second bill came, it was for more than $7,000.
Sheppard is just one of many people who has seen his flood insurance rates creep up since Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act in 2012. The legislation was meant to phase in increased flood insurance premiums for homes in flood zones and phases out government subsidies. It also updated flood zone maps, which meant buildings and residences grandfathered in were also seeing increases in premiums. The three members representing West Virginia in the U.S. House voted in favor of the bill.
But an untold consequence of the law is that people like Sheppard saw their premiums increase dramatically. Sheppard admitted water sometimes gets in his basement, but it recedes through a sewer pipe and hasn’t caused any damage. He said he would never make a flood insurance claim for something that’s not a problem.
“I fought it and fought it and I wrote letters to anyone — Barack Obama, all the state senators, all the legislators and I didn’t hear anything back from any of them except the state senators and delegates from this area,” he said.
Although Congress has acted to repeal portions of Biggert-Waters and help people like Sheppard, the flood insurance issue has become a key part of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s campaign for U.S. Senate. She’ll likely face Capito in the November general election, and last week released a web-only ad highlighting Capito’s vote on Biggert-Waters.
“Tennant has argued that Congresswoman Capito’s role in writing the flood rate hikes is the prefect example of Capito’s record of putting Washington first at the expense of West Virginia,” according to a news release from Tennant’s campaign.
Nearly 9,000 homeowners statewide have seen their rates increase up to 18 percent, according to the campaign, and more than 3,200 business owners and owners of second homes have been required to pay the mandatory 25 percent increase. Tennant also says she’s heard from voters like Sheppard who traditionally vote Republican but won’t vote for Capito because of this issue.
“Shelley Moore Capito was one of the original cosponsors of Biggert-Waters and she’s also claiming they’ve now fixed Biggert- Waters and that’s not true,” Sheppard said. “Also I’ve been contacted by about every politician within maybe 100 mile radius in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania about this. I never heard from her. I understand that all the politicians, all the lawmakers, they passed Biggert-Waters without reading it and none of them saw this coming. Natalie at least took the time to sit down with me and she’s still saying this isn’t right and it needs to be repealed and fixed. Capito is saying we’ve already fixed it.”
But the Capito campaign contends Tennant’s campaign has distorted the facts about Capito’s efforts in Congress to fix the problem.
“Shelley Moore Capito has fought hard to ensure that West Virginians continue to have access to affordable flood insurance through bipartisan reforms that ensure the long-term viability of the Federal Flood Insurance Program,” said Amy Graham, the communications director for Capito’s campaign. “No amount of political buffoonery can distract from Shelley Moore Capito’s proven record of fighting for West Virginians. Natalie Tennant will stop at nothing to distort Shelley Moore Capito’s record in the hopes of diverting attention from her strong support of Obamcare and President Obama’s war on coal.”
Tennant’s ad is viewable on YouTube and also through the Stop FEMA and West Virginia Repeal the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 Facebook pages.
Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.