Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012


NFIP FEMA flood map banner

What is “Biggert-Waters” and what does it mean for Lafourche residents?

In July 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12) which calls on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies, to make a number of changes to the way the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is run. NFIP was created to provide protection for businesses and homeowners who built according to code, have maintained insurance, and have not had severe repetitive losses. However, changes made to the NFIP in the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 threaten to harm the very citizens the program was designed to protect.  Some of these changes already have occurred, and others will be implemented in the coming months.


On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 into law.

This law repeals and modifies certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. FEMA will be working with Congress, the private Write Your Own Insurance Companies, and other stakeholders to implement these Congressionally-mandated reforms and to working toward  shared goals of helping families maintain affordable flood insurance, ensuring the financial stability of the NFIP and reducing the risks and consequences of flooding nationwide. FEMA will continue to identify and publish special flood hazards and flood risk zones as authorized and required by Congress.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act revisions include:

  • Reinstates Grandfathering – All post-FIRM properties built to code at the time of construction will have protection from rate spikes due to new mapping.
  • Annual Rate Increase Cap of 15% - The law prevents FEMA from increasing premiums within a single property class beyond a 15% average a year.
  • Funds the Affordability Study and Mandates Completion – Mandates completion in two years.
  • Allows for Annual Surcharges – The law applies an annual surcharge of $25 for primary residences and $250 for second homes and businesses, until subsidized policies reach full risk rates.
  • Includes the Home Improvement Threshold – The law returns the “substantial improvement threshold” to the historic 50% of a structures’ fair market value level

Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph stated, “This action is essential to the future of a solid flood insurance program for Lafourche Parish residents as well as millions of Americans. We now have a realistic foundation from which to build, allowing for true flood maps accounting for all structures that can reduce our risk. And time to complete more.”

For the latest updates and changes to the NFIP, visit the FEMA Flood Insurance Reform page.


More Resources

- FEMA Flood Insurance Reform page

- FEMA Fact Sheet: NFIP and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014

- NFIP Info page on Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012

- GAO report - coverage changes

- GAO report - subsidized properties

- Letter to President Obama on NFIP Concerns dated November 1, 2013

- Flood Insurance for  Business: Impacts of Recent Legislation

- How Recent Legislative Changes Affect Flood Insurance

- Flood Insurance Premium Refunds: Who Gets Them? Who Does Not?