Houston Matters

More People Are Buying Flood Insurance in Texas — Even Before Harvey

University of Houston Professor Seth Chandler says there have been “enough flood tragedies” to create an incentive to get the coverage.

The first anniversary of Hurricane Harvey is getting closer and official data show the number of homes that have purchased flood insurance in recent months has increased in Texas in general and Harris County in particular. The increase actually started in July 2017, meaning that it began a little before the storm hit the state. For Seth Chandler, who teaches at the University of Houston Law Center and specializes in insurance law, the trend is logical.

“If what happened, or the images of what happened, or hearing from friends isn’t enough to get people to buy flood insurance, I’m not sure what would be,” Chandler told Houston Matters.

Chandler acknowledged it’s possible some people might forget somewhat soon about Harvey’s devastating effects and drop their flood insurance in one or two years, but he thinks “we’ve had enough flood tragedies in the United States that, really, there’s an incentive to go out and buy the product.”

This file photo shows flooding on Glen Park, in Houston’s north side, during Harvey. official data show the number of homes that have purchased flood insurance in recent months has increased in Texas in general and Harris County in particular.

Urgency to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program

The expert also touched on the urgency of the U.S. Senate passing a bill to temporarily reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program by this Tuesday because, otherwise, Americans wouldn’t be able to acquire flood insurance policies. The U.S. House of Representatives already passed its version of the bill last week.

Chandler warned that if Congress doesn’t pass the bill “what that will mean is that, if you are borrowing to purchase the property, you are not going to be able to close the deal because the lender is not going to lend unless you have flood insurance coverage.”

A second potential effect of the bill not passing, according to the expert, might be that FEMA’s borrowing authority could be impacted and, therefore, their capability to pay potential flood claims may be partly compromised.

At the same time, Chandler noted the “silver lining” is that this same situation has already happened six times in the past year and, so far, Congress has reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program every time before the deadline and “there is the thought that that’s going to continue this time.”

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