Community Associations Institute (CAI) believes that flood insurance should be available to all community associations, either through primary carriers or through a federally supported program. Such coverage should be made available at rates appropriate to the risk without a coinsurance requirement and on a basis that recognizes the ownership structure of the community association involved.
Such insurance coverage should be provided in a manner that is fitting for the exposure faced by the association, that distinguishes between the insurance responsibilities of the association and the individual residents and/or owners, and in accordance with the insurance responsibilities of the individual community associations, whether they be condominiums, cooperatives, homeowners associations or PUDs.
CAI urges the insurance industry to be responsive to the flood insurance needs of community associations by providing the necessary coverage based on need, risk and the practical considerations of community associations, both in general and as an optional alternative to government-provided flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
At the same time CAI urges the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue to review the terms, conditions, zone maps, and rating structure of the flood insurance coverage it provides community associations, under the NFIP, and to revise them as necessary to reflect the need, risk and financial and practical considerations of community associations.
A significant number of community associations have an exposure to loss from the perils of flood, heavy rains, surface water, back ups of sewers and drains, and other water sources. The losses are often catastrophic in nature and impact both the association property and that of the unit owners. These exposures exist whether or not the property is located in a "hazard zone" as designated by FEMA. Many associations have endeavored to protect themselves against these perils through the purchase of insurance, as well as by employing various risk management techniques.
The degree of flood risk to association buildings depends on the design, value and location of the buildings. The risk and related loss that occurs from flooding events impacts both the association property and that of the unit owner.
In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), both to fill a void due to the general unavailability of flood insurance for residential property and to encourage new construction in areas subject to flooding to be built more safely, thereby lowering the risk and exposure of life and property. The rates charged for new construction reflected the risk while rates charged older buildings reflected a Congressionally-mandated subsidy. The premiums collected for the newer buildings have paid for the limited losses to those buildings and related program expenses while the premiums for the subsidized, older buildings have been inadequate to pay for such losses and expenses.
The NFIP has largely had to rely on two factors to sell its policies: the Federal requirement that mortgage loans on buildings in high flood hazard areas had to have flood insurance and efforts to convince the public at risk to purchase the coverage. Insurance agents have been educated and encouraged to sell the coverage. Although these efforts have resulted in over four million buildings and households being protected, the overall success has been limited, since most buildings at risk are still not covered by flood insurance.
Before the mid-1980s, the private insurance industry made flood insurance available as needed to serve the needs of community associations. In the mid-1980s, the industry reduced the amount of flood coverage offered in areas of both high and moderate risk. The resulting void caused FEMA to respond to requests for flood insurance by revising its coverage and by designing flood insurance products to address the void in the marketplace. FEMA’s unique condominium coverage became available in 1989.
In 1994, FEMA revised its flood coverage for community associations with the Residential Condominium Building Association Policy (RCBAP) form, addressing a number of needs of such associations. For example, FEMA changed the coverage for condominiums from actual cash value to replacement cost, introduced a co-insurance clause to encourage the purchase of insurance-to-value, and adjusted its rates and building clauses to reflect more accurately risk and insurance-to-value. These rates were intended to make the program actuarially sound.
The insurance to value and co-insurance provisions have resulted in associations feeling as if they have been forced to purchase more coverage than they believe they need for the risk to which their buildings are exposed. The purchase of "full limits" is necessary to avoid suffering co-insurance penalties at the time of a loss. The insurance-to-value limits of coverage are significantly higher (sometimes 50 to 100 times) than the limits of coverage many associations purchased in the 1980s. Since the rates were not reduced commensurately, these higher amounts of coverage have resulted in flood insurance premiums that are many times the amounts the same associations paid in the 1980s.
Associations are concerned that the NFIP rates do not accurately reflect the risk to the association buildings, nor the insurance-to-value resulting from the higher amounts required to be purchased. Many believe that their exposure is less so that their allowable purchased limits should be less. Associations also believe that FEMA has not explored the full range of rate, building classification, deductible and coverage options that may be both available and appropriate for flood insurance for community associations. Furthermore, the rates are sufficiently high in "non-hazard" areas that many who have a remote risk of loss no longer believe that they can not afford to purchase the coverage.
Since the inception of the RCBAP policies and related unit owner policies, complaints have been rampant. In addition to concerns about rates and pricing; apparent errors in classifying properties and in applying appropriate rates have been cited. Mortgage brokers need more education in how to apply the rules accurately and equitably.
It is in the interest of community associations, and thus CAI, to examine the nature of the coverage provided, the need for such coverage, and the possible areas of modification. The information gathered should be transmitted to FEMA with a strong recommendation for appropriate modification of the NFIP. Furthermore, CAI could act as a facilitator and participant in discussion with private insurance carriers and FEMA to study what participation they could assume.