Bubil: On the need for flood insurance coverage


In my years as your real estate editor, I have come to believe in a few things apropos to the content of this section. Namely, good architecture, good building codes and construction quality, good insurance.

Especially flood insurance.

However, I may not have been clear on that in a recent column in which I criticized CoreLogic for sensationalism when it reported how many properties are at risk of total destruction by storm surge, and the value of those properties.

The column elicited this well-stated response from Richard Greene, who sells insurance, including flood policies:

“Dear Mr. Bubil: I always read your column in the Herald-Tribune and find it insightful and informative. I almost always am pleased with what I read.

“But today, I have to say, I was aghast!

“Your article (Consumer lessons on storm surge, July 27) seems to tell people here on the coast that they should have no concern about the potential for flooding, and even more disregard for flood insurance.

“Hurricanes can and have hit our area — most recently Charley, but other damaging storms in the past have inundated the islands and also way through downtown Sarasota.

“With all the recent major storms, which are expected to be as bad, if not worse, in the future, you need only to Google these names and ‘storm surge’ to see the devastation: Katrina, Sandy, Ike, Charley, Andrew, Wilma, Eloise, David, Opal, Jeanne, Dennis, Ivan — the list goes on and on.

“I am always amazed when clients of mine living just hundreds of feet from tidal water — the Intracoastal, the Gulf, Phillippi Creek, etc. — decline to insure their investments (homes and condos, both structure and contents) from flood damage. And usually, flood insurance is relatively inexpensive. A premium for $250,000 on the house and $100,000 on contents in an X (low-risk) zone is just $414.) I tell them of the potential, remind them they are very close to water that can rise several feet, but since it hasn’t happened in Sarasota, they don’t think it can.

“Well, it can, and the only financial protection they can buy is flood insurance. If their properties are damaged by flood, only flood insurance will respond. A hurricane has been adjudicated as wind. The storm surge is water flowing over ground — defined as flood.

“Many people have the misguided notion that if they suffer flood damage, the federal government will give them money. The federal government will assist in emergency aid, but will only offer limited, low-interest loans for repairs or replacement of structures. They do not loan on personal property (clothing, furniture, pots and pans, linens, etc.). And a flood does not wipe out a mortgage that was secured by the structure.

“To suggest that local residents scoff at the potential for flooding and flood insurance might be OK if it is not your property, but if it is your property, and it is damaged by a flood, I would be mighty unhappy that a newspaper professional made that suggestion.”

In response: So would I. So a clarification is in order. I have long advocated for the purchase of flood insurance, no matter the property’s elevation. A plugged-up storm drain can cause a flood even in low-risk areas.

Perhaps I was not clear in the column in question. My point was that scaring people with numbers like 6.5 million homes at risk, with $1.5 trillion in property damage, may get a headline, but doesn’t represent losses from single events.

Having said that, if you don’t have flood insurance, get it. And if you are building a house, spend a little extra to elevate it a foot or two above the flood-zone minimum elevation. You will greatly reduce the flood insurance premium by doing so.



One of the highlights of a newspaper job is when readers get upset about something in the newspaper and leave weekend voicemails to complain, but don’t state their names or telephone numbers.

A recent caller decried the absence of attorney Tamela Eady’s column on condominium law, which developed quite a following.

This decision, said the caller, might cause him to call the circulation department to give the newspaper the same treatment that he though I had given Tamela.

Had he left his name and number, I could have called to explain that, rather than being dumped, Lady Tamela left us, as she moved back to Naples for a job with a law firm that has her working all (billable) hours of day and night.

“My new job has challenged me like I have not been since the days when I had little kids and was trying to juggle that with city council service and a solo law practice,” wrote Tamela in a recent email to me.

“The hours and the demands are insane, but I have always had a streak of crazy in me! . . .

“I have had a number of people reach out to let me know they miss the column, and I am touched by that. If I had the time and you wanted me to, I would continue, but it is too time-consuming to do so on a regular basis. I would be honored if you would consider occasional submissions.”

I’d be honored to have them.


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: November 21, 2014
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