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
Q: What is FEMA going to do about
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
/ 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
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