What Happens When Flood Zones Change?
Have your clients been shocked to find out that their homes are suddenly located in a special flood hazard area (SFHA) when this was never the case before? In December The Portland Press Herald reported a small neighborhood in Portland experienced this unwelcome surprise. The neighborhood had always been considered “as high and dry as any place in the city", however FEMA had determined that the nearby Capisic Brook would likely overflow and flood the neighborhood at least once in the next 100 years. This determination led FEMA not only to update their flood map, but also to recommend that the neighborhood’s homes be elevated on stilts.
Local resident Daniel Calles was shocked to learn that their flood zone rating had been changed. “We were aware of Capisic Pond, but we hadn’t even heard of Capisic Brook.” He couldn’t believe that a body of water so small he’d never even noticed it could lead to a flood zone change.
Why Flood Zones Change
Mr. Calles’s community is not alone. Across the nation more and more communities are finding themselves now located within SFHAs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports, “Rising sea levels inundates low-lying wetlands and dry land, erodes shorelines, contributes to coastal flooding, and increases the flow of salt water into estuaries and nearby groundwater aquifers.” These changes leave coastal communities more vulnerable than ever to the devastation of storms and extreme weather. So, what do these changes mean for homeowners?
3 Ways Your Clients’ Flood Zone Can Change
Flood risks can change over time, so it’s important for your clients to know their current flood zone status. FEMA Flood Zone maps can change due to factors including construction, terrain changes, weather patterns, and extreme weather. If your clients aren’t aware of their current status, you can suggest they look it up using FEMA’s searchable Flood Map Service Center. If their flood zone designation changes, it may fall into one of the below situations:
- From a Moderate - Low Risk (Zones B, C, X, or D) to High Risk (Zones A or V)
- In this case, a shift to Zone A or V means they will need flood insurance, if their home is financed by a federally backed loan.
- High Risk (Zones A or V) to Moderate - Low Risk (Zones B, C, X, or D)
- A shift of this type can lower insurance rates and, more importantly, indicate a lower probability of flooding. Some homeowners may see this as a sign that they no longer need flood insurance. You may want to remind your clients that flood insurance is still a sound investment, regardless of the flood zone.
- High Risk (Zone A) to Higher Risk (Zone V)
What if FEMA makes a Flood Zone error?
FEMA reports that they are aware of occasional mistakes in flood zone designations. If your client believes their home has been inaccurately zoned, they can request a change from FEMA through their Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) and Letter of Map Revision-Based on Fill (LOMR-F) process. In this process, the homeowner will submit map and survey information and request a document from FEMA that removes their home officially from a SFHA . Once the application is received, FEMA will review and make a determination, usually within 60 days.
Purchasing Flood Insurance
There are many reasons why people may be unhappy about flood zone changes, but the bottom line is that FEMA flood maps are designed to help protect property owners. The Flood Maps attempt to predict risk so that homeowners can protect themselves against potential storm and flood damage. Flood Zone changes can be an opportunity for you to discuss insurance options for your client’s home.
This article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized advice. The article is not a replacement for any NFIP publications.