The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides an application for property owners whose residence or commercial property meets or exceeds the base flood elevation in a high- or coastal high-risk flood zone. Federal law requires flood insurance on properties in these zones if the property lies within a community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Flood Insurance Rate Maps
The Federal Emergency Management Agency analyzes U.S. flood hazards and maps the resulting data for use by the National Flood Insurance Program and communities. These Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs, illustrate in which flood zones properties reside. In areas of low to moderate and undetermined risk, owners have the option of purchasing flood insurance, but in high- and coastal high-risk zones federal law requires flood insurance.
Base Flood Elevation
The phrase base flood elevation, or BFE, refers to natural ground "at or above the elevation of the 1-percent-annual-chance flood." FEMA conducts engineering studies to determine flood risk to create its FIRMs, but due to scale limitations and or the topographic definition of source maps some areas may appear within a SFHA when on natural ground at or above the base flood elevation. In other cases, use of earthen fill during the construction process may have elevated a property to the BFE during or after the engineering study.
Letter of Map Amendment
FEMA provides the Letter of Map Amendment process to offer a remedy when it inadvertently includes a property in an SFHA whether it meets the BFE naturally or by construction elevation. The property owner files a Letter of Map Amendment application with FEMA. Owners of existing single-family residences or entire legally recorded properties may use the eLOMA system, an electronic application. All other property owners must use the traditional paper application.
Whether using the eLOMA or paper application, the property owner must hire a Licensed Land Surveyor or Registered Professional Engineer. The surveyor or engineer completes and submits the application including certifying the property's elevation. This may require conducting an engineering study.
While the traditional paper LOMA application can take 60 days to process, the eLOMA can provide a same-day result. If FEMA approves a LOMA, it eliminates the federal requirement to purchase flood insurance, but the mortgage lender retains the right to require the property owner to purchase it. If FEMA rejects the LOMA application, the property owner must comply with the federal flood insurance requirement.