Recently, I have been running into several properties that require flood insurance, but have very clearly never flooded.
How does that happen?
Well, a few years ago after Super-storm Sandy, FEMA reconsidered its flood maps and where they felt new flooding might be possible. So, they redrew some of their maps to include areas that may have not been considered before.
As an example, I have a client selling a house her family lived in for years. This house backs up to a nature preserve which has a very large pond and wetland area. While it makes for a beautiful, bucolic vista from the back patio, FEMA also felt it might be a “floodable” area.
When I went to list the house, I asked my client if the house required flood insurance. She was completely shocked by the question and responded that there had never been a drop of water in the house. When I explained it had very little to do with the house actually being flooded, but more with the fact that house sat in a flood zone, she was stupefied.
Sure enough, as it turns out, when FEMA redrew all the maps a couple of years ago, her house got swept up onto a flood zone and any new owner would be required to carry flood insurance. As I am sure you can imagine, that is the kiss of death for a house being sold. No buyer wants the added expense of flood insurance!
When it comes to flood insurance, most people understand it if they have far reaching, stunning views of water. It’s sort of the price you pay for the view, if you will.
BUT, when you have no view of water and your house has NEVER flooded, flood insurance can feel like a very unfair waste of money!
So, what can you do?
Well, what my homeowner did was file for a Letter of Map Amendment or a LOMA.
In a nutshell, a LOMA says, “Hey even though this house is in a flood plain, the topography of the lot and the way the house is sitting on the lot precludes it from ever flooding, so you don’t have to have insurance.”
My client hired an elevation engineer who came and surveyed the property. He determined that her house actually sits a full 6 feet ABOVE the flood line. There is no physical way her house could ever flood from the Nature Preserve. It’s physically impossible for the water to get up to the house.
So, we are waiting to hear from FEMA any day now with the letter that officially says her house is will not require insurance. She also has buyers for the house, who made their offer contingent on her getting that LOMA…so everyone keep your fingers crossed for us that it arrives soon!
Here’s the formal definition of a LOMA from FEMA:
If you are selling your home and suddenly find you are in a flood zone, don’t panic. You may have a way out. Go to the FEMA website to better understand everything and then get yourself an engineer. Even if your house isn’t for sale, you might want to do it so whenever you do sell, it’s all taken care of.