Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2013

In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (BW-12) which requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make changes to how they run the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Many of the changes have already occurred, but there are still phases of the program that will be implemented in the upcoming months. The most prominent revisions involve FEMA changing flood insurance rates to reflect true flood risk of properties in order to make the NFIP more financially stable. Many, but not all, homes in high-risk flood zones will be required to pay the “full-risk rate”, which is often much higher than the subsidized or grandfathered rates many homes in San Mateo currently receive.

Although flood insurance rates for many homes will be affected by BW-12, some will have opportunities to renew their policies at their current rates. Homeowners and business owners are encouraged to talk to their insurance agent to determine if their policy will be affected by BW-12. Although City staff can help you navigate through FEMA policies, your insurance agents are much more familiar with your policies and specific situation. Below is a list of cases in which the home or business owner will be required to take out a new policy at the full-risk rate. It is very important that you do not let your current policy lapse if you have a chance to renew at your current rate. Taking out a new policy will be at the new rates!

New policies are to be issued at full-risk rates:

  • After the sale/purchase of a property
  • After a lapse in insurance coverage (check with your insurance agent, don’t let it lapse!)
  • After substantial damage/improvement to the insured structure
  • For properties uninsured as of BW-12 enactment (Any new policy after July 6, 2012)
  • As new or revised Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are issued
Useful links on FEMA’s website: For more information on how this policy specifically affects your home & flood insurance rates, please consult your flood insurance agent.

The City of San Mateo does not have the resources to look up your current policy, but can assist in explaining general questions and concerns about the flood zone designations in San Mateo. Feel free to contact Public Works at (650) 522-7300.