If you live in an area designated as a potential flood zone, you are probably paying a flood insurance premium. However, flood risks are reassessed and changed periodically. You may find that your property has been incorrectly designated during a reassessment — or has been incorrectly designated all along. If so, you need to submit a Letter of Map Change with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to correct the problem.
A Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is an area that has a 1% chance of being flooded in any given year (also known as a 100-year flood plain). That means that any home in one of these areas has a 26% chance of being flooded during the life of a typical 30-year mortgage. Because of this, homeowners in these areas are required to carry some type of flood insurance, and the premium may vary based on sub-designations within the zone.
The flood areas are shown on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) and their digital versions (DFIRM). Current flood maps and definitions for these designations are available on the FEMA website or at your local map repository (usually a planning and zoning office).
To determine if your property has been misclassified, you will need a licensed surveyor to verify that the lowest adjacent grade to the lot or structure is above the 100-year flood plain. The request to FEMA may cover only part of the property or certain structures — it does not have to cover the entire property.
When you submit a Letter of Map Change (LOMC), you are asking that the information be "corrected" on the FIRM/DFIRM without requiring the entire map to be republished with the revision — republishing after every change request would be impractical.
You can submit a LOMC through a paper form (MT-EZ for single residential lots/structures) mailed to the proper FEMA address, or through an online application process. The online LOMC application is at https://www.fema.gov/change-flood-zone-designation-online-letter-map-change along with links and information to help you fill out either the online or the paper form.
You will need:
- A summary of the part of the property you want reconsidered
- Supporting measurements and documentation, submitted by a licensed land surveyor or a registered professional engineer.
- A description of the ground level construction of any structure (crawlspace, slab or basement)
If the status change is due to filling or some other land modification, a slightly different form is used.
FEMA will review the request and supporting documentation, and can take from 30 to 60 days to make a determination. If approved, the result will be a LOMA (Letter of Map Amendment) or LOMR-F (Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill).
If you are using the online process, you will be able to check your LOMC status in real time on the FEMA website. You will need the case number that was assigned to your request.
If your LOMC is granted, your new designation may allow you to adjust your flood insurance policy and pay a lower premium, or bypass flood insurance altogether. Even so, you may still decide some flood insurance coverage is worthwhile.
Once your LOMC is granted, are you done with the process? You are for now, but revalidations of LOMC's occur whenever the FIRM is revised. FEMA automatically compares the 100-year flood plain in the revised map to the lowest elevation or adjacent grade of previously issued LOMC's. If changes have been made to the lot (or the property is inadvertently left off the list), you will need to submit a letter requesting that the LOMC be reconsidered.
To submit an LOMC to FEMA takes some time, effort and money, and there are no guarantees that it will succeed or last. However, doing so can result in substantial savings of years of insurance premiums.