Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller issued a consumer alert this week 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.
Miller said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 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.
“If the mortgage on a home is backed by the federal government, which many are, then the homeowner must buy flood insurance,” Miller noted.
She advised that in order 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 flood water is anticipated to rise during the base flood used in determining the land is in a Special Flood Hazard Area.
Miller said 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, at FEMA’s website, www.fema.gov/information-homeowners.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department is also encouraging homeowners to consider private flood insurance options. The department recently created a one-stop shop webpage on flood insurance. Consumers can access this webpage at the department’s website, www.insurance.pa.gov, then clicking on the “Flood” icon under Top Pages. It includes information on private insurance options for Pennsylvania homeowners, as well as information on the federal government-run National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
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