Category: Business Insurance

Van Dyk New Lloyds Flood Product – Born the U.S.A in NJ

By Paul Lavenhar

New Jersey is known for Bruce Springsteen, diners, and going “down the shore.” It is also known for being one of the states hit hardest by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. 

New Jersey-based insurance agency, The Van Dyk Group, is located on the coast of New Jersey, and it processed over 6,000 claims after Sandy. Its staff also provided tremendous community support to help those whose homes were lost or damaged. The year before New Jersey was pounded by Hurricane Irene, which was a less powerful storm but still devastating.

Van Dyk Insurance NJ

Van Dyk is a family business with New Jersey roots dating back 70 years. From Left to Right: David L Wyrsch Sr. and Janet Wyrsch (seated); Cindy Kelley, Jeff Wyrsch, Dan Wyrsch, David Wyrsch Jr., Joann Hahl (standing)

Out of that experience Jeff Wyrsch, vice president of personal insurance for Van Dyk, realized there was a need for private flood insurance as an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

“Hurricane Irene hit our office on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Irene caused inland flooding with lakes and rivers overflowing causing mostly inland damage. It was a completely different event than Sandy one year later. Sandy was a much more coastal weather event causing most of its damage along the shore. So, we got to see both sides of the need for flood insurance and catastrophe insurance,” said Jeff.

After these events, Jeff Wyrsch and his father David Sr. attended the first CHART conference.  Although they had a previous Lloyds connection from years ago, they met with several syndicates and met a new broker. Working with CHART also eventually led to them going through the process to become coverholders.

After Jeff attended the CHART conference, he connected with a Lloyds of London broker who understood the need and the marketing potential for Van Dyk’s private flood insurance product. The next step was a trip to the London market to finalize the product offering.

“Attending CHART led to our being with Iris Insurance Brokers. After CHART we had several meetings, and our broker introduced us to various syndicates. We came away feeling very confident that there was real interest in our product,” said Jeff. “Afterwards we put together a proposal that showed how the product and its rating would work.”

After meeting with the Lloyds underwriters in London, these underwriters followed up by coming to New Jersey to meet with Van Dyk executives. They saw first-hand the type of properties and risks that the program targets.  

NJ Flood Insurance

Houses destroyed by the storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy in Long Beach Island, NJ Photo by Jeffrey Bruno

“Since Sandy, many federal regulations for flood insurance have changed and continue to change in regards to elevation requirements of homes in high risk flood zones, along with how their premiums are calculated. Our initial program focuses on properly elevated homes, which have lower risk and lower premiums, but high volume. Most other private programs do not take elevation into account. New homes and those rebuilt after Sandy have to meet new elevation requirements, which meet the criteria for our product’s coverage and lower rates,” said Jeff.

Van Dyk’s flood products not only provide lower premiums, but also offer additional coverage options beyond what NFIP offers.  These private flood products meet all federal requirements and are typically accepted by mortgage companies. 

One impetus for the product was rising NFIP premiums – in extreme cases doubling or tripling in a year. In addition, many home owners hit by Sandy were disappointed to find out their coverage would not cover their home’s total value. 

Van Dyk’s program can provide replacement cost coverage on personal property. In contrast to NFIP that limits coverage to $250,000 for the building and $100,000 for personal property, Van Dyk provides up to a million dollars for the building and up to $250,000 in personal property coverage on their standard policy.

Many of the homes damaged by Sandy were second vacation homes – often rented when unoccupied by the owners. Van Dyk can cover replacement cost, lost income if it is unrentable, and the cost to live elsewhere while a home is being repaired, which NFIP does not. In addition, NFIP has additional fees for vacation homeowners, which the Van Dyk flood program does not.

Van Dyk continues to offer NFIP coverage in addition to its own product. Its ability to offer an alternative enables its customers to customize their coverage depending on their specific needs. 

Van Dyk launched the program by offering it to its existing base of customers. Based on getting a positive response, Wyrsch’s plans for 2018 include offering the product on a wholesale basis to agents in coastal areas in the northeast. In addition, Van Dyk launched a coverholder operation called Insurance Agency Connection.

“When we found out about the CHART conference, we were looking for connections with the London market. We decided to give it a shot even though we had prior relationship there years ago. We came away from the conference with a lot of good information. The biggest advantage that CHART offered us was the opportunity to meet with Lloyds’ brokers. While we were at CHART we met with several syndicates and with Iris, the firm that ultimately became our broker.  That led to our becoming coverholders and launching our product,” said Jeff.

Paul Lavenhar is the principal of the insurance marketing communications firm
PL Communications.

Request Free, No-Obligation Flood or Home Insurance Quote 

Storm Safety Reminders from The Van Dyk Group

Storm Safety Reminders

Hurricane Watch: issued when hurricane conditions are a real possibility for an area.

Hurricane Warning: issued when a hurricane is expected within 24 hours. START GETTING READY!

Act Now to be Prepared

  •     Develop a family plan for survival and property protection.
  •     If your home is in a potential flood or storm surge zone, be prepared to evacuate when officials recommend.
  •     Plan what you will do with your pet.
  •     Inventory personal property; safely secure all records and valuable documents in a watertight place.
  •     Have materials available to protect your doors and windows.
  •     Have emergency cash or traveler’s checks saved.
  •     Put together a family hurricane evacuation kit.

Hurricane Warning

  •     Listen for weather updates and stay informed.
  •     Keep a portable radio and flashlight on hand – with fresh batteries.
  •     Re-check all emergency supplies and equipment.
  •     Clear your yard of all loose objects.
  •     Double check your shed and contents are secure.
  •     Store drinking water in clean containers.
  •     Shutter, board or tape all windows.
  •     Plan a flood-free evacuation route, and know where to go.
  •     If ordered to evacuate – comply immediately!

Keep a Hurricane Evacuation Kit ready to go once a warning is issued. Include battery-operated radio and flashlight, plus the following:

  •     First aid kit.
  •     Two-week supply of medicine.
  •     Blankets or sleeping bags.
  •     Extra clothing, infant necessities.
  •     Personal items including books and toys.
  •     Important papers (valid ID).
  •     Checkbook, cash, credit card, ATM cards.
  •     Insurance information

 

After the Storm

  • Do not enter evacuated areas until local officials have issued an all clear.
  • Stay away from disaster areas. Do not sightsee!
  • Obey all curfews and emergency orders that are issued.
  • If you must drive, use caution. Be aware of road and bridge washouts,   and storm debris on roadways.
  • Avoid all downed power lines. Assume that all have live electricity.
  • Once the storm has safely passes: Inspect for Damage. When inspecting your property for damage, be careful to avoid injury.

To check if you are properly insured for a hurricane or for more information call your local Van Dyk Group office

Flood Insurance Bill Eases Increases

Flooding on Long Beach Blvd in Dec of 2012

Flooding on Long Beach Blvd in Dec of 2012

The Homeowner Flood Affordability Act of 2013, written by Senator Robert Menendez of NJ and Representative Michael Grimm of NY, has now passed the Senate and is on it’s way to the President’s desk to be signed into law. This eases the some increases and changes that went into affect as a result of the Biggert Waters Flood Act.  A more detailed rundown can be found on the Insurance Journal website, but here is a quick overview of changes that will help many homeowners along the Jersey Shore, and across the country for that matter. First, it puts the maximum increase NFIP can impose at 18% per year, with some property classes having a 15% cap on increases.  This is the maximum that NFIP can increase a policy each year. The Bill also repeals both the property sales and new policy sales trigger.  Under Biggert Waters, the home buyer and homeowner who are purchasing a new house, or new policy on their current house would immediately have to pay the full risk rate.  Both of these provisions have been repealed, and in both instances, subsidized rates would still be available. It also restores “grandfathering” and sets a hard cap on policy increases per year.  This relieves property owners who were mapped into a higher zone from being forced to raise their houses or have higher rates phased in over 5 years. There is also a slight change to the Reserve Fund that was set up as a result of Biggert Waters.  Now a fee of $25 per policy for primary residence, and $250 per policy for a secondary residence will be imposed on all policies.  This is changed from a 5% fee on all policies that Biggert Waters called for. There are many other changes that this Bill addresses also.  For a complete rundown, the article I mentioned above from the Insurance Journal is well worth the read.  You can also click here to view the article. Feel free to get in touch with our Insurance Dept. if you have any questions on how these changes might impact you.  

Flood Insurance Changes Taking Place this Month

When the Biggert-Waters Flood Act was passed last July, very few knew that it would take over a year for some of the major provisions of the bill to kick in. In fact, some of the changes were not even announced until almost a year after the bill passed, and less than 6 months from the time many of the provision go into affect. October 1st, 2013 is one of the dates where some major changes are set to go into affect. There are a few provisions that go into affect as of Oct 1, but the ones that will affect the most people are the Elevation Certificate requirement on all Flood Insurance Policies, and the elimination of subsidized rates for Pre-FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map) homes. From here on out, Flood Insurance rates will be based on the actual elevation of the house (actuarial rate), no matter if it was built before or after the Rate Map was released in the mid-70’s. Until now, Pre-Firm homes were allowed to keep their subsidized rates. However, as of Oct 1, 2013, Non-Primary Homes (under 80% occupancy per year), will no longer be allowed to keep their subsidized rates, and will see an increase of 25% per year until the actuarial rate is achieved. The actuarial rate for a home is pre-set by the National Flood Insurance Program and is based on the elevation of the house, which is why Elevation Certificates are now required. Primary homeowners will get to keep their subsidized rates as long as they keep their policy. As of Oct 1, 2013, however, once they let the policy lapse, assign the policy, or for any new policy, the actuarial rate will begin from day one, and will not be phased in at the 25% per year pace. But that news is not all bad, as in many cases, the actuarial rate is less expensive under the new law. For example, the actuarial rate before Biggert-Waters for a Single Story Pre-Firm home that is in an AE Flood Zone, is at Base Flood Elevation and without an Elevation Certificate is $3,600 per year. Under the new law, that same house will now have an actuarial rate of $1,815. If that same house is 4 ft above Base Flood Elevation, the actuarial rate under the new law will be $553 per year. So its important to get an Elevation Certificate to determine the Base Flood Elevation. In many cases, rates will not go up that much, if at all. There are some other changes that take affect on Oct 1, 2013 as well. For example, all Business Owners that are using subsidized rates will now see a 25% rate increase per yer until the actuarial rate is achieved. The same goes for properties that are deemed to be severe repetitive loss properties, who have had sever flood damage multiple times. Also the limit on the amount rates can go up each year was raised from 10%-20%, plus there will be an additional 5% fee charged to all Flood Policies the set up a Reserve Fund. It is very important to speak with your Insurance agent to determine the affect the changes will have on you. The best advice right now is to get an Elevation Certificate. Then you will get a true picture of what needs to be done, if anything, to keep your Flood Insurance rates low.

New FEMA Base Elevation Requirements are Released

This past weekend, FEMA released the new flood elevation maps for those areas that were affected by Super Storm Sandy. Here you will be able to search by address and find out what the Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) is for that property. It is choked full of other information as well. After entering the address, and clicking “Get Details” you will not only get the new AFBE, it will also give you the old base elevation, as well as what Flood Zone the property is in. There are also numerous links to other reports and information regarding the elevation of the property.* While this is going to apply to any new homes that are built in flood zones, it will also apply to those homes that the are deemed to “substantially damaged” by the Township in which the property is located. On the Long Beach Township home page, they explain this a little more in the “Repair Your Flood Damaged Home” section about a quarter of the way down the page. They also explain that if the home is deemed to be substantially damage, you must now meet the the required flood elevation for that location. They also give some guidance as to what the Township will deemed as substantially damaged. Of course each town’s requirements may be slightly different, but this is an example what homeowners need to take into consideration when they are deciding what to do with their damaged homes. *Update as of December 19, 2012 – All owners should click on the “Link to AFBE Map” to view the actual map. It gives two different numbers as a base elevation, the 1% Elevation and the 2% Elevation. Here is a link to the definitions, but its essentially the percentage chance that the elevation will be breached by water in a given year. The general difference in feet between the two number are 4-5 feet. For example, our LBI office has a 1% advisory base elevation of 9 feet, and a 2% advisory base of 13 feet. These are the numbers to pay close attention to. We are hearing that Long Beach Township will adopt the 2% ABFE in their buiding ordinances, which means new homes and those deemed substantially damaged will have to raise their house to the 2% elevation. Regarding what is deemed substantially damaged, we are hearing that if the damage to your home is 49-50% of the buildings value, it will be deemed substantially damaged and be forced to comply with the flood regualtions. On Friday, Dec 21, 2012, Long Beach Township is expected to introduce its new FEMA ordinances, so stay tuned…

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