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LETTERS OF MAP AMENDMENT OR MAP REVISIONS
Information extracted from FEMA's Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines

Removing properties from
Special Flood Hazard Areas

Situations occasionally arise in which a piece of real property is shown on a flood map as being in a special flood hazard area even through the property is, in fact, above the 100 year flood level.  This happens because flood insurance rate maps cannot reflect every rise in terrain and there will be instances where "natural islands" of high ground were inadvertently included in special flood hazard areas.  Nevertheless, until the map has been revised, lenders are bound by the information shown and cannot validly make a determination on their own that is inconsistent with the map.

Fortunately, there is a very workable mechanism for resolving such problems.  The Federal Insurance Administration has created an efficient procedure by which a property owner can submit elevation materials in support of a request for a Letter of Map Amendment removing the property from the special flood hazard area.  Such a process involves only the property owner and the Federal Insurance Administration and does not require that the community become involved.

A related but different situation is presented when a property owner, whose land is within a special flood hazard area below the 100 year flood level, grades and fills the site to raise the level of the land above the 100 year flood level.  This situation differs from the one above because in the previous situation the natural level of the land at the time that the map was issued was above the 100 year flood level and no artificial improvement was needed to accomplish that level.  In cases where physical changes have had to be made to raise the level of the property above the base flood elevation, Federal Insurance Administration will not issue a Letter of Map Amendment.  However, with the concurrence of the community The Federal Insurance Administration will issue a Letter of Map Revision which, for the purposes of the property owner will accomplish the same purpose.  A Letter of Map Revision can also be used to correct a mistake make in the original analysis or when conditions have changed as in the case of the construction or removal of a dam or other flood control structure.

The request must be made, and concurred by the community because changes in land level that result from grading and the placing of fill on the property may have an impact upon other property owners.  The submission of a request for a Letter of Map Revision from the community evidences that the change in land level has been reviewed by the community and been found to be compatible with the community's planning.  Letter of Map Revision's also may be granted in situations where channels have been dug or reservoirs built to reduce base flood elevations and where levees or flood walls have been constructed to protect areas.  (It should be noted that in floodways of special flood hazard area, which include the channel of a river and the adjacent floodplain that must be reserved in an unobstructed condition, the placing of fill or other development is not allowed if it will result in increased flood levels.)  A seemingly related, but different situation is presented when a property owner, whose land is at a level below the 100-year flood level, i.e., the base flood elevations, in a special flood hazard area, builds an elevated building, supported by walls or pilings, whose lowest floor is above the 100-year flood level. In this situation there is no basis for the issuance of either a Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision.  The building is still in the designated special flood hazard area and its foundation can come into direct contact with flood waters.  However, the elevation of the building will be reflected in the lower insurance rate and premium that such elevation will have made possible.  Only the Federal Insurance Administration can amend an official map to remove or add a particular property location from a designated special flood hazard area by a Letter of Map Revision to change the special flood hazard area or revise the elevations on a map.

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Effect of Letters of Map Amendment and Map Revisions upon purchase requirement

Questions are frequently asked concerning buildings that are located on the ground that is shown as being in a special flood hazard area, but that is actually above the 100 year flood level.  As noted above, under Section A4., there are procedures under which a Letter of Map Amendment or a Letter of Map Revision can be obtained which will take the particular portion of real property and the improvements thereon out of the special flood hazard area.  However, it is important to keep in mind that until a property owner has received a Letter of Map Amendment or a Letter of Map Revision, removing real property from the special flood hazard area, Federal agencies (as well as lenders regulated by Federal Instrumentalities) must rely only upon flood insurance rate maps.  Thus, if a building is shown as being in a special flood hazard area, the purchase requirements apply.  When the property owner obtains a Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision, he may submit the letter to the lender and the lender may release the property owner from the obligation to purchase flood insurance.  However, even though a lender is not required to compel the purchase of flood insurance with respect to improved real property that is subject to a Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision, the lender has the discretionary right to continue to require flood insurance if the lender chooses to do so. It must also be kept in mind that when a property owner with property below the 100 year flood level builds an elevated building whose lowest floor is above the 100 year flood level, there is no basis for the issuance of either a Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision and flood insurance purchase requirement continues to apply.

The reason for requiring the insurance is that the foundation on which the house is elevated is still below the base flood elevation in the special flood hazard area where it remains exposed to the action of floodwaters.

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