Homeowners Can Appeal Flood Maps to FEMA

With nearly Lynn 800 properties added to the city’s Flood Rate Insurance Maps (FIRM maps) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) last year,

City councilors and municipal departments have been inundated over the past several months with phone calls from residents who had never had to purchase or even think about flood insurance in the past, many of whom are now being told by their bank or mortgage lender that they have to purchase the flood insurance or risk losing their homes.

The issue began to bubble to the surface last year, after FEMA first made its new updated flood maps available to the public in Lynn and across coastal Massachusetts.

The agency seeking to assess the potential impacts of sea-level rise, climate change and seemingly ever-bigger storms in Eastern Massachusetts, updated its flood maps using flood mapping technology and scientific estimates about the impacts of the worsening weather and climate systems.

Those efforts led to dramatic increases in the number of homes and businesses that were included in the floodplain, to more than 1,200 properties in Lynn for the first time ever.

However, with their inclusion in the new flood maps, homeowners who had never before purchased flood insurance faced the prospect of having to buy flood insurance, which could represent up to a 25-percent increase in their home insurance rates in some cases, especially if they still have a mortgage on their home.

The Lynn City Council, facing a federal deadline and the prospect of homeowners losing insurance altogether, voted to approve the federal flood insurance maps on July 8, 2014. The Council’s approval of the maps essentially takes the city out of the equation.

However, all is not lost for homeowners who feel their properties were added to the flood plain in error.

According to the FEMA website, “a property owner who thinks their property has been inadvertently mapped in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), may submit a request to FEMA for a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). An SFHA is defined as the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.”

The website further explains that an LOMC reflects an official request for revision/amendment to an effective FIRM. If the LOMC request is granted, the property owner may be eligible for lower flood insurance premiums or the option to not purchase flood insurance.

Applicants can use the Online LOMC tool to easily request a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) online. A LOMA is a letter from FEMA stating that an existing structure or parcel of land—which is on naturally high ground and has not been elevated by fill—would not be inundated by the 1-percent annual chance flood. The Online LOMC tool is available to any applicant who would like to submit a LOMA request directly to FEMA and does not require a surveyor or engineer to submit. Users can submit LOMA requests through this tool instead of filing the MT-EZ paper form via mail. Learn more through the Online LOMC homepage.

Licensed land surveyors and professional engineers (Licensed Professionals) also can use the eLOMA, another web-based application, to submit simple LOMA requests to FEMA. This tool is designed to make a determination based on the information submitted by the licensed professional and allow them to generate a determination from FEMA in minutes. The eLOMA enables licensed professionals to make requests for existing single residential structures or properties, provided no fill has been placed to raise the elevations of the structure or property. For more information on the eLOMA, visit the eLOMA website or read the eLOMA fact sheet.

Homeowners, or those who are thinking about purchasing a property, but are not sure if the property is currently mapped in a floodplain, can check by going to FEMA’s website and viewing the floodmap for their property online.

Visit https://www.msc.fema.gov/portal.

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