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According to FEMA, My House Is Suddenly In A Flood Zone?

June 1, 2011 · 362 comments

in Commentary, Home & Garden

Special note:  There is a wealth of information in the comments section of this post regarding this issue.  Thank you to the great readers who took the time to share their experience and suggestions.

We have lived in our house since 2001.   Out of the blue, I received a notification in the mail from our mortgage bank stating that I now live in a FEMA designated flood zone (Zone X).  Of course, there is very little information about when this was decided.  All the note said was that if I did not provide proof of flood insurance, the bank would purchase flood insurance for our home.  The best part is it would cost $2400 per year for the policy they were going to buy on our behalf.

What a deal!

We Are One of Two Unlucky Houses….

I figured this must be a mistake.  Why would my house suddenly be in a flood plain after all these years?  I then went to the FEMA website to look up our address on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).  Lo and behold, our house in indeed in a flood zone.

The interesting part is that there are only two houses in the neighborhood in a flood plain, ours being one of them. (Our subdivision is 1 mile x 1 mile, so pretty darn big.)    This seems crazy to me because our house is located on a slope at about the midpoint of a hill.  I know nothing about water tables, but I would think that the houses at the bottom of the slope would be at a higher risk of flooding than us.  But, nope, those houses are in the clear, as are the houses on either side of us.

How We Will Fight Our Flood Zone Determination

So, our next step is to either buy flood insurance, or fight the flood designation.  I contacted FEMA and informed them I would like to dispute our property being included in a flood zone.  FEMA emailed me a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) form that has the term “EZ” in the title.  However, the whole process appears to be anything but easy.  According to the instructions, I will have to submit the following, in addition to the EZ form:

“One copy of the subdivision plat map (with recordation data and stamp of the Recorder’s Office) or a copy of the property deed (with recordation data and stamp of the Recorder’s Office), accompanied by a tax assessor’s map or other suitable map showing the surveyed location of the property with respect to local streets and watercourses; a copy of the effective FIRM panel; and a map scale and North arrow for all maps submitted.”

After I uncover and submit all the documents, FEMA will then review our flood designation and let us know their decision. (Apparently, some information can be obtained from a ‘map repository’, wherever that is.)  In the mean time, our bank may decide to purchase the flood insurance in the interim and we have no way of stopping that from happening, unless we buy flood insurance ourselves.

If our plea is rejected by FEMA, we will have to hire a surveyor to come in and evaluate if our home is built above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) or not.   If it is, we will obtain an Elevation Certificate and send that to FEMA for review.  If we truly are in a flood plain, we will just have to accept it and buy the insurance.

Update:  We recently received a letter stating we were now in Flood Zone A. I called the City Engineer, who said our home was still in Flood Zone X. I discussed with him how I had to buy insurance the year previously for Zone X and he was in shock. He said that FEMA does not require insurance for Zone X, and the person I called at the State level said the same thing. However, since the bank is who is requiring it, I have no choice. Anyway, our City Engineer spoke with someone at FEMA who said the map was wrong and that we truly were Zone X. However, it will take FEMA 120 days to fix the map, and so I will have to buy insurance for Zone A myself and get refunded the difference between Zone X and Zone A when the maps are revised. What a mess.

Got Any Tips On How To Fight FEMAs Decision?

Have you ever been told you need flood insurance suddenly?  If so, did you actually buy flood insurance, or did you fight it successfully?

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