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Consumer Alert: Appealing a Flood Plain Map

Commissioner Miller is alerting property owners who are in flood zones on maps drawn by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that they can appeal the decision to place a property in a flood zone, known officially as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

Over the past several years, FEMA has re-mapped most of the country, and using 100-year flood projections, many properties not previously included in Special Flood Hazard Areas are now in such zones.  If a home is in an SFHA and has a mortgage backed by the federal government, which many are, the homeowner must get flood insurance. 

To appeal a home’s placement in an SFHA, the homeowner must show the lowest adjacent grade (the lowest ground touching the structure) is at or above the Base Flood Elevation.  The Base Flood Elevation is the computed elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during the base flood used in determining whether the land is in a Special Flood Hazard Area.  It is the homeowner’s responsibility to provide this information in a letter to FEMA.  For this type of appeal, called a Letter of Map Amendment, there is no charge to the homeowner.

More information on how to appeal a flood zone designation, get a flood map, and find answers to other questions, homeowners can go to https://www.fema.gov/information-homeowners.  Homeowners can also call 1-877-FEMA-MAP (1-877-336-2627), to get information on appealing a flood zone designation.

Homeowners who need or want flood insurance can get information on this coverage at a new, one-stop shop webpage created by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, at www.insurance.pa.gov, then click on the “Flood” icon under Top Pages.  This flood insurance page includes information on private insurance options for homeowners, as well as information on the federal government run National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 

In many cases, private flood insurance may be less expensive than the NFIP product.  However, private insurers may not cover higher risk properties.  Also, homeowners who have NFIP insurance and switch to a private insurer, then later go back to NFIP, will likely not be eligible for any subsidies from NFIP.  And, currently, only homes insured through NFIP are eligible for federal grants to help cover the cost of flood mitigation work, such as raising a home to lessen the chances of flooding in the future.