Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller Monday issued a consumer alert telling homeowners about a process by which they can appeal their property's placement in a flood zone by the federal government, which in many cases requires them to purchase flood insurance.
"The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently re-mapped most of the country using 100-year flood projections, resulting in many homes being designated in flood zones which were never there before, despite many of these homes never or rarely having experienced flooding," Commissioner Miller said. "If the mortgage on a home is backed by the federal government, which many are, then the homeowner must buy flood insurance."
To appeal a home's placement in what is officially called a Special Flood Hazard Area, the homeowner must show the lowest adjacent grade, or the lowest ground touching the structure, is at or above what is called 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 the land is in a Special Flood Hazard Area.
Commissioner Miller noted that 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 consumer.
Homeowners can get more information on how to appeal a flood zone designation, get a flood map, and find answers to other questions, by going to the FEMA Homeowner Information webpage.
Homeowners can also call 1-877-FEMA-MAP (1-877-336-2627) to get information on appealing a flood zone designation.
As part of Gov. Wolf's continuing consumer education and protection initiative, the Insurance Department earlier this year created a one-stop shop webpage on flood insurance.
This flood insurance webpage includes information on private insurance options for homeowners, as well as information on the federal government run National Flood Insurance Program.
As NFIP premiums have risen and more homes have been re-mapped into flood zones, more private insurers have started entering the flood insurance market. However, private companies may not cover higher risk properties, leaving the NFIP as the only option for some homeowners.
Homeowners who now have NFIP insurance with a subsidy, and switch to a private policy, will likely not be eligible for any subsidy if they later go back to the NFIP.
Currently, only those homes insured through the 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.
"In many cases, we have found comparable private flood coverage is much less expensive than the NFIP product," said Commissioner Miller. "I encourage consumers who need or want flood insurance to use our webpage to shop and find the best coverage for them at the best price."For more information on flood insurance, including private flood insurance options, visit the Insurance Department’s Flood Information webpage.