First they were slammed by Superstorm Sandy, and now New Jersey homeowners who have flood insurance for their properties at the Jersey Shore and in other areas are about to be hit with new surcharges and rate hikes.

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Beginning Wednesday, April 1, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act kicks in.

"Everyone that has flood insurance will be assessed a surcharge, $25 for primary homeowners and $250 for nonprimary homeowners, and policyholders will also begin to see an increase in their premiums moving forward," said Christine O'Brien, president of the Insurance Council of New Jersey. "The increases are necessary because the federal program, the National Flood Insurance Program, is close to $20 billion in debt."

O'Brien explained that for many years, flood insurance has been subsidized by the federal government in order to keep policy costs at affordable rates, but now NFIP is facing bankruptcy if another disaster like Sandy comes along.

"Congress needed to figure out, 'How do we bring more revenue into the NFIP so it'll be there in the future?'" she said.

Besides the surcharges, insurance policies themselves may also be increased, starting Wednesday, by up to 18 percent per year.

O'Brien said some people may not like this, but they should evaluate the location of their property and how that relates to their future rates.

"They may have to get a better understanding of where they are in the zone of the maps, what it means to be above or below the water table level, because that will determine what your increase will be," she said. "People should really go to their local insurance agents, talk to them about the options available. Can they, in fact, have flood insurance built into their homeowner insurance rate? And can they look at what we call excess policies, where they could turn to a surplus carrier, like a Lloyd's of London, and perhaps get a better rate?"