Flood zones can sometimes be difficult to understand. When are you in one and when are you not? What sources can be trusted to give you the right information to verify the flood zone. Does your mortgage company have the right zone and if not what can be done?

Sometimes trying to read a flood map can be like trying to read a foreign language for the first time. You have to understand a few things to get a good understanding of what these maps mean.

The first thing you have to understand is what each zone means and are they mandatory. Below are some of the main flood zones

  1. Flood zone X
  2. Flood Zone A
  3. Flood zone AE
  4. Flood zone V
  5. Flood zone VE

Let's get a brief understanding of what each one of these zones mean.

Flood zone X is what is considered a minimal risk zone. Insurance is not mandatory in this zone it is important o understand that 30% of flooding occurs in this zone normally as a result of flash flooding. These zones also carry preferred rated policies that carry some of the most favorable rates.

Next is flood zone A this is considered to be part of the 100 year flood plain but many times this area does not have a base flood elevation. This means that many of the flood risks really are undetermined because flood studies have not been done in the area.

Flood zone AE is also part of the 100 year flood plain but has a determined base flood elevation making measuring the risk a much easier task.

Flood zone V are coastal areas like flood zone A they have no base flood elevation

The last zone we want to look at is flood zone ve these are coastal areas where a base flood elevation has been determined.

Now that we understand flood zones a little bit we have a better understanding of what is required and what isn't.

So let's get back to that letter you got from your mortgage company that states you are in what is called a special flood hazard area and that flood insurance is required. You think to yourself there is no way this property is in a flood zone it sits on a hill.

Tuscany landscape with typical farm house-1

It's very possible that you are absolutely correct. There are really two problems that could be giving you the wrong information.

  1. FEMA bases maps on parcels
  2. 3rd party vendors

Your house sitting on a hill doesn't mean according to FEMA that its not in a flood zone. Remember everything is in a flood zone. It might be a low risk like a flood zone X or a high risk like a flood zone AE. FEMA currently bases their maps on parcels. This means that the area below your home might be listed in the same flood zone as your home.

How is that possible the elevation difference is 25-50 feet.This is one of the downsides of the parcel system.

The other problem that comes into play is 3rd party vendors being used for zone determinations. Some times these companies don't all have the right information and as a result the wrong flood zone could be provided.

So what can you do to fight this information?

Whether you are a purchasing a new home or fighting the letter you just got in the mail you have the right to appeal this information. There are a couple of options here

  1. Letter of determination review
  2. Letter of map amendment

    Blue Mailbox with Mails Isolated on White

So what is a letter of determination review?

According to FEMA a letter of determination review is is an option available to a property owner to appeal a lender's flood zone determination. To have this process completed it generally cost $80 for the process.

Whether this is a property you currently own or one you are looking at buying you have 45 days of the notice being sent by the lender to the borrower stating the building is located within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

So what happens if you win or lose this process?

Well if you win then the mandatory requirement to carry flood insurance will be removed.

If you lose the appeal then you will continue to be required to carry flood insurance on the property.

So what about a letter of map amendment?

What is it?

According to FEMA a letter of map amendment also known as LOMA is an official amendment, by letter, to an effective National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) map.

This process works a little bit different than a letter of determination review. A LOMA is a request to actually change the flood map. You have to prove that the lowest adjacent grade of the property is above the base flood elevation and the risk is minimal. This process generally takes about 30-60 days for FEMA to review. Below is some additional information that FEMA may require for a LOMA.

  1. Elevation Certificate
  2. Property deed
  3. Tax plot
  4. Copy of flood insurance rate map

The appeal outcome is the same as the letter of determination review process. If you win the mandatory requirement for flood insurance will be required. Generally a letter from FEMA needs to be submitted to the bank. Then a letter from the bank needs to be sent to the flood insurance company in order to win the process.

If you lose you will continue to keep your flood insurance going.

Sometimes these processes can be confusing. We have an educational background in flood mitigation so we are here to help in anyway possible.

If you have further questions about how to complete this process or if you will win then make sure to contact us. You can visit our website to get more information or even order an elevation certificate if you need on. You can also check out our daily flood education videos on our YouTube channel or Facebook page The Flood Insurance Guru. You can also tune into our podcast to get more information.


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