Floodplains FAQs

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(Prepared Summer 2004)

My house is IN a floodplain according to the new map:

Will I have to purchase flood insurance?

If your property is financed by a bank, your lender may require that you purchase flood insurance. If you do not purchase flood insurance within 45 days after being told that it's required, the lender can have the insurance placed on the property and charge the cost to you.

I have lived here for years without flooding. Why do I need flood insurance?

The flood hazards shown by National Floodplain Mapping Program are based on the best information available at the time the maps were prepared. In many areas, hydraulic and hydrologic studies were conducted to reflect the long-term projection of flood risk. Because of the infrequent occurrence of floods and the relatively short history of the mapping program, Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are not based solely on the past flooding. The fact that a flood hasn't occurred within memory doesn't mean one won't happen soon.

The 100-year flood is a relatively rare event (1 percent chance in any given year), but structures located in the floodplain have a 26 percent chance of having flood damage during the term of a 30-year mortgage. That is why flood insurance is required to receive federal or federally-backed financial assistance.

If you feel your house is not located in the floodplain, download an elevation certificate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or obtain one from a registered land surveyor. Send the completed certificate to your mortgage company. Other paperwork may also be required, such as a Letter of Map Amendment or a Letter of Map Revision.

My house was in a floodplain according to the old maps and REMAINS IN a floodplain with the new maps:

What will happen to my insurance premium?

  • Increase in flood elevation - If you can show that your house was building in compliance with local floodplain regulations at the time of construction, the basis for rating your policy does not change and your premium will be the same.
  • Decrease in flood elevation - The lower flood elevation may lower premium. You should contact your insurance agent to ensure that the policy is re-rated according to the new map.
  • More restrictive flood zone - You will need to show your house was built in compliance with local floodplain regulations at the time of construction to keep your current premium. If you cannot show that your house was built in compliance, you will need to show that your home has been continuously insured to avoid your policy being re-rated at a higher premium.
  • Less restrictive flood zone - You should contact your insurance agent to have the policy re-rated, which will likely lower your premium.
My house is NO LONGER in the floodplain, according to the new map:

Will I have to continue carrying flood insurance?

You will not have a federal requirement to carry flood insurance; however, lenders retain the right to require flood insurance even if the property is not in a floodplain.

Can I still carry flood insurance?

Yes. You may be eligible for preferred risk rates. You should have your policy re-rated using the new maps, which should lower your premium.

Do changes to my elevation or flood zone put me in violation of local or federal regulations?

Any house that can be shown to have been built in compliance with local regulations will continue to be considered compliant. HOWEVER, should your house suffer substantial damage (damage that is 50 percent or more of the pre-damage market value), you will be required to bring the ENTIRE STRUCTURE into compliance with the regulations in effect at the time if you want to make repairs. Regardless of whether your building is substantially damaged, you will likely need a building permit to make repairs.

What do I do if I want to build an addition or make improvements to a structure in a floodplain?

Additions or other improvements valued at 50 percent or more of the market value of the existing structure are considered substantial improvements. In such cases, the entire structure must be brought in compliance with the elevations on the map in effect at the time the improvement begins. Regardless of whether your building is being substantially improved, you will likely need a building permit to make improvements.