New FEMA flood maps rezoning

15 Replies

I just checked all my properties against the latest FEMA flood maps here:

https://msc.fema.gov/portal

Now sometimes your county may also have a layer of this in their GIS system.

In any case I noticed three of my properties seem to lay inside ZONE X (which is lower risk) then previously ZONED AE.

Down here insurance is expensive, we got liability, windstorm and flood and just flood on one subject property is $1500-$2500.

I am guessing I can't just call up my insurance agent and say check out this web site...so I need to obtain an updated elevation certificate just from the map being rezoned by FEMA.

For ZONE X I actually am not required to carry Flood but I guess I still will just for the peace of mind especially if the new rate is lowered.

Anyone else been through this, would appreciate if you know of a way to get a formal rezone for a specific address that you can use for insurance instead of another elevation certificate which requires a new survey I believe.

@Sam Leon  You should talk to your insurance agent.  You may be able to rewrite the policy based on the new map.  

You have to be looking at the FEMA map, not county data. Localities participating in the flood insurance program undertake mitigation efforts in order to reduce flood risk, and there is a good bit of conflict between local governments and FEMA over just how effective that mitigation has been.

The insurance agent told me they have to have an elevation certificate with the official zone designation.  I guess it is liability, the agent can't be looking up a map on the screen and make a decision that may be subjected to errors and interpretation.

However my flood insurance is bought from FEMA, FEMA is the one publishing the new flood maps, I find it insane that I need to hire a professional surveyor to tell interpret FEMA maps, give me a piece of paper so I can give it to the insurance agent, who will then update their information to ask FEMA to adjust accordingly.

Also, there is one property where I am partially in one zone and partially in another zone.

This property I am like 85% in ZONE X (lower risk) and 15% in ZONE AE (higher risk).  The cyan boundary delineates the two zones, inside the boundary is X, outside is AE.  A bunch of houses on this street are partly in partly out.  When I do a look up I am giving that this address has two zones.  I wonder how this is handled with flood insurance risk assessment.  Anyone know?

Sam,

You don't pay the surveyors to interpret the maps. You pay them to provide and certify the elevations needed to fill out the the flood certs. Your community flood plain manager or a FEMA anaylst will interpret the maps and consider the flood cert against the firm map. Anytime a flood zone is changed the old certs are null because the risk is now different. All flood policies are underwritten by FEMA. If your property is in two zones, you insure against the higher of the risks. If you have a 1000 acre parcel the shows only one corner in the flood zone, your lender will still require a flood cert because your property is affected. At this point you could do one of two things. Cut the affected portion out creating a raw land parcel in the flood zone then say a 999 acre parcel with a house that is not in the flood zone. Overlay this on a firm map then you have a free and clear parcel. This is acreage is rather extreme but I use this example to explain this situation to my clients. Due to zoning laws it's usually cheaper just to do the flood cert and send in a LOMA to try and get an exemption. 25% of all flood claims typically happen in areas outside of the flood zone. I am a surveyor by the way. Hope is helps.

Clint Shelley 

@Clint Shelley  

Thanks for the reply.

What is the reason for the updated zone maps? Does FEMA has new base maps that is better and more accurate then what they had before, or did something else changed in their models such as vertical datum etc...?

As to a property with more than one zone.  I see your point.  I was hoping that it would be a prorated "risk" if it's 80% AE and 20% X.  What threw me off is the boundary lines didn't make sense.  Logically I see these boundaries to based off some contours, right?  So it puzzles me, when I look at say the picture I included above where the boundary sliced through 1/3 of a house, when the house's floor elevation is flat.  I was expecting that the outline of the house could be outside of one zone being it was built up, but outside of the building footprint where the driveways and aprons are lower it goes into another zone, but it didn't appear that way.  I wonder if this is because the flood map boundaries are not based on elevations?

What you get for flood insurance is a base flood elevation BFE certificate.  This certifies where the lowest living area is in relation to the flood elevation.  They base your insurance on this.  It did not used to be required to get these, you were just in whatever zone you were in.  Now it depends on where your house is and how it is built in relation to the flood zone.  So if you have an entry with a low elevation and the house is raised after that ,  the entry may dictated the BFE as the lowest livable area.   Not sure how it works if the house is not in the flood zone and the land is. However if 80% of house is in the flood  zone the risk is on the lowest BFE for that flood zone.

They are rezoning based on more recent flooding and updated systems to spread risk. It is something they do from time to time and post recent floods they are doing it a lot more.

Colleen,

My elevation certificate has a base elevation, but also the datum, the flood zone etc....now the insurance agent said they go by the zone for the rate. Now what actually happens at FEMA as they review the individual policy I don't know...Clint said in his post if I understand correctly they would validate against their maps.

I have three properties that are along the borders of these zone maps, and I am hoping I can get out ahead with this map change.

For us they basically said it was like 10k unless we increased the BFE by raising the house because  it was in the AE zone and the lowest level was below  the minimum BFE they wanted.  They backed off some, I don't know the final dollar amount as I am only a part owner.  They are going to phase in the increase but hopefully that property will be gone soon.  You may have some protection against too much of an increase if you carried flood insurance continuously.

Flood insurance is a nightmare right now.  Biggert Waters, redrawing maps, subsidy changes, and no venue for private insurance in most circumstances.  When you read into all the news and reports a bit, it's hard to see where property in flood plains will have any value -- like @Colleen F.  , we've been hearing similar numbers for insurance.  They are playing around with delays and fractional increases over four years, etc., but the giant increases in insurance costs appear inevitable.   We've heard 11K on a 150K house purchase -- needless to say the purchase didn't happen.  

@Sam Leon

There has been recent height modernization projects to collect higher quality more accurate elevation data for the entire US and the world for that matter. This is both good and bad. Now at least some zone A which the underwriters like to slap the highest risk insurance on are now at least an AE which is easier to rate. A Zone basically means 100 year flooding will occur at some elevation "we just don't know what that number is". Very un helpful to both property owner and insurance company. How they rate your property is mostly drive by the lowest finished floor. For every 1 foot increment that the lowest floor is below BFE, your rate increases dramatically. Basically if your more than 2 foot below BFE, your screwed! Here is another example about how the certificate helps insurance agent determine your rate. Say your houses is a slab on grade single story house with a finished floor elevation of 105'. Your in a Zone AE where the base flood elevation is known to be 103'. This is really good. However, the certificate also has to show the lowest equipment servicing the residence (in this case, an AC pad) is 102', and the Lowest adjacent grade which is the lowest ground shot at any building corner is 101'. These last 2 items will mean you will still have to have flood insurance, but because your finished floor is above BFE, your flood risk is much lower, so you will have to carry insurance, just not as much as it could be. Take the same scenario with the house on stilts 1000 feet in the air. The risk will still be the same based upon the LAG and the AC pad. In our example, if the pad and the LAG were both above 103', you would still be in the flood zone, but a flood cert and LOMA would be used to get an exemption letter so you wouldn't be force to carry flood insurance. Hopefully this can help shed some more light on this topic.

Clint

Anyone in an area where private flood insurance is available?  I had heard some hearsay that this option maybe be available in Florida and New Jersey?

@Clint Shelley   Thanks for all that great information. You explained it pretty clearly for me. 

@Sam Leon   I got an elevation certificate and the surveyor did the LOMA for me to move my house into a X Zone after which I was no longer required to carry flood insurance. This also made the cost of my flood insurance (if I chose to purchase it) much lower. 

Paul

Great discussion, I invest in an area that is primarily in an A or AE zone however I noticed one of my properties that was in an AE zone is now in a B zone. I hadn't heard of B and C zones before. After reading a bit it seems anything in B or C zone it is not mandatory to carry insurance. I guess at this point I need to take these maps to my county and see if we can make some changes before my policy renews. For me this will save at least 1k per year per property so I am pretty excited.

The reason for changing the zones has to do with hard surface runoff, additional drainage provided, road grade changes, etc, etc that will effect flooding in an area. These constantly change, and therefore the likelihood of flooding in any given area shift over time in either direction. 

A few more things....if you need to get a policy in place quickly prior to a closing, get it. Then when you have more time, explore getting an updated flood cert and or LOMA. If the new information puts you in a lower risk category, you are entitled to a refund for the difference in premiums for up to one year.  I bet this will change at some point as more natural disasters happen and the government needs more money. Thanks for the kind words.

Clint

I bought a flip in a flood zone and had issues for 7 months. I was able to keep it as a rental for a year cash flow and sell it after appreciation. Renting it for a year bought me the time I needed to get the house rezoned.

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/home-rezoned-out-flood-plain-6607.html

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