Q: I've been told I have to buy flood insurance. My surveyor says I'm out of the floodplain. What do I do? Why won't the lender take my surveyor's word?

A: The Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Hazard Boundary Maps (FHBM) portray the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), within which the purchase of flood insurance is required as a condition for granting a mortgage from a federally-backed or federally-regulated lending institution. The lender or insurance agent must use the boundaries of the SFHAs shown on our maps to determine if mandatory flood insurance applies. Thus, even though a site survey may indicate the homesite is above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) and is technically outside the floodplain, if the homesite is within the gray shaded area (the SFHA) on the map, flood insurance is required.

Q: Are the flood maps wrong?

A: The general lack of detailed topographic mapping throughout this nation means that the floodplain boundaries in most communities cannot be accurately mapped. Since, FEMA cannot afford to field check all floodplain boundaries, some areas of high ground are shown as floodplain, and some low areas are not. Or FEMA does not know that your new subdivision or building site has been elevated above flood elevation on compacted dirt fill.

Q: What is FEMA going to do about it?

A: FEMA created the Letter of Map Amendment and Revision (LOMA/R) process to correct or change flood maps [FIRMs and FHBMs] to reflect actual ground surveys or better topographic mapping. Letters are issued by FEMA officially removing lots or portions of lots (by legal description) from the SFHA or changing the boundaries of the SFHA. These are dated and sent to the homeowner applicant and are also filed with the municipality or county within which the property is located. The building site is removed from flood zone AE, AI-30, A, etc and placed in flood zone B, C, or X, which are not part of the SFHA [Special Flood Hazard Area].

When a LOMA/R is issued removing a building site from the SFHA, the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement is lifted. However, the lender always has the option of requiring flood insurance anyway. For example, the homesite might be just a few inches above BFE, so the lender feels that there is still a threat of flood damage to their "secured
property". Once the flood zone has been changed to B, C, or X, the building qualifies for a PREFFERRED RISK POLICY, the least expensive flood insurance available.

Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA): This is used to revise the SFHA boundary based on detailed elevation surveying and/or topographic mapping of natural conditions. If the homesite and the lowest floor of the building (including basement or garage) is above the BFE, FEMA can amend the map to remove the homesite and other land area from the SFHA.

Letter of Map Revision, based on fill (LOMR-F): When FILL dirt is placed on property to raise the building site above the BFE FEMA can remove the raised area from the boundaries of the SFHA, thus revising the FIRM. This is a man-made change to the floodplain.

Q: How do I go about obtaining one of these letters?

A: A homeowner applicant may apply for a LOMA / LOMR-F using "LOMA / LOMR-F Tutorial". This will take you to FEMA's LOMA / LOMR-F Tutorial site.  This site will walk you through the application process.  If you need further assistance in completing a LOMA or LOMR-F application, you may call the FEMA Map Assistance Center toll-free at 1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627). Agents are available 8:00am to 7:30pm Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

Q: How much does it cost to apply for this letter?

A: There is no charge for a LOMA because it is based on natural conditions and corrects the FEMA map. A LOMR-F is submitted for properties on which fill has been placed to raise the structure or lot to or above the 1% annual chance flood elevation. NFIP regulations require that the lowest adjacent grade of the structure be at or above the 1% annual chance flood elevation for a LOMR F to be issued removing the structure from the SFHA. The participating community must also determine that the land and any existing or proposed structures to be removed from the SFHA are "reasonably safe from flooding". To remove the entire lot and structure, both the lowest point on the lot and the lowest floor of the structure must be at or above the 1% annual chance flood elevation. FEMA charges a $400 fee for the engineering review of a single-lot or single-structure LOMR F; for multiple lots or structure, the fee is $800. As with the LOMA, the requester is responsible for providing all supporting information, including elevation data.

Q: Who can apply?

A: A homeowner may apply for a LOMA or LOMR-F. However, a Site Plan & Boundary Survey and FEMA Elevation Certificate must accompany each application. These must be prepared, sealed and certified by a Registered Land Surveyor. The applicant is responsible for paying for this survey information.

Q: How long will it take for FEMA to process my request?

A: It normally takes 6-8 weeks from the time an application is received until a letter of determination is issued. Applications are processed on a first come, first served basis.

Q: What do I do in the meantime?

A: Purchase the flood insurance if you want to close without waiting 2-3 month for the LOMA or LOMR-F to be issued. Usually, you can get a premium refund. If you were required to get insurance by a lender and then you got a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) from FEMA, you may request a refund. The lender is not required to waive the requirement; the lender may decide that flood insurance coverage is still required. To get a refund, the lender must agree to waive it. Present the written waiver to the insurance agent who sold you the policy and request a refund. Refunds are not available if a claim has been made or is pending against the policy.

Phone: (865) 588-1255 (800) 782-3127 Fax: (865) 588-1174 (800) 782-5084