The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been busily embarked on a project to remap our nation’s flood zones. FEMA says the project was initiated because flood risks can change over time. They claim construction and alterations to manmade structures like dams and levees plus natural forces like surface erosion can alter floodplain boundaries. So what, you say? Well, if you’re a property owner, you may suddenly learn that you’re now living in a flood zone, and even if you never needed flood insurance before, you’re going to need it now. And if you thought you had enough flood insurance, well, now you’re going to need more. But don’t worry, you have or will be contacted by your bank or mortgage holder if FEMA has changed the flood designation for your area.
You do not have to take your FEMA flood remapping lying down. You have recourse and there are steps you can take to challenge it. You’re dealing with the government, so it won’t be easy. But there’s money to be saved here in the form of cheaper flood insurance premiums, so it’s worth the effort.
Be proactive. Ignorance is not bliss. Don’t wait for a “Notice of Flood Insurance Requirements” letter from your bank to show up in the mail. Go now to the FEMA website and find your area’s flood map. You can also request a flood hazard determination review from FEMA.
If you live in a municipality that is about to be re-designated, your city will have 30 days to review the new preliminary maps. Then FEMA will begin a 90-day appeal and protest period during which your city and individual residents can file appeals or protests. Your appeal has to be based on scientific or engineering data that trumps FEMA’s data.
On an individual level you can try one of these options if your building or home has been re-designated into a new flood zone.
- Contact a flood zone consultant to see if your building qualifies for a special historical classification based on the original flood zone at the time of construction.
- Contact your insurance company to see if you can keep your existing coverage using a grandfathering rule. This is only possible if you already have an existing flood insurance policy and have not allowed it to lapse.
- Challenge the new FEMA flood zone. This process only affects homes that are on an elevation that is higher than the calculated flood. It is done on a house by house basis, meaning your neighbor may win and you may lose, by as little as an 1/8th of an inch! Your Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) includes a process that allows you to supply your elevation information to FEMA. The FEMA website outlines the process and supplies the downloadable forms that you can use to get out of the floodplain designation and obtain a waiver of the mandatory flood insurance requirement. It will take FEMA about six weeks to review your request and respond. However, if a structural change to the floodplain such as an enlarged culvert has occurred, you will need to complete a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F). This is much detailed and take up to a year to complete and resolve.