THE HAMILTON MINUTE

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Flood Insurance?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Do you need floodplain assistance?

Email me at hhamilton@hamiltonconsultingengineers.com, or call my office at (815) 730-3444.  We have several staff (Lee, Derek, Jeff, Jim, Tom, or Howard) that have been authorized by Kristen to work for 30 minutes, at no-charge, with individuals that require assistance with flood insurance issues.  We intend to launch a page on our website (https://hamiltonconsultingengineers.com/services.php?p=27) that will automate this process, but even after that is up, sometimes a patient voice can be a benefit.  All that I ask in exchange for some free work is that you:

 

On Tuesday I opened the mailbox and found a thick envelope from our mortgage company.  It contained a 6-page, 10-point font, double-sided letter that began,


Dear HOWARD J HAMILTON:

Our records show that your flood insurance expired, and we do not have evidence that you have obtained new coverage. Unless we receive proof of acceptable continuous coverage, we'll buy an insurance policy for the property in 45 days. Because your property lies in a "Special Flood Hazard Area" pursuant to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ("FEMA") flood maps, flood insurance is required on your property. We plan to buy insurance for your property. You must pay us for any period during which the insurance we buy is in effect but you do not have insurance.


My house is NOT in the "Special Flood Hazard Area" (floodplain, SFHA), in fact, the lowest floor is over 13 feet above the elevation of the floodplain.  However, the swampy cattails in the backyard are in the floodplain.  Before we started work on the house in 2015 I was aware that a careless review of the flood map could cause issues with my building permits, or hold-up approval of a mortgage, so our firm conducted a survey of the property, prepared an Elevation Certificate, and applied to FEMA through the Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) process to exclude the house from the floodplain.  The application was approved by FEMA on September 25, 2015.  I thought that issue was behind me.  As is often the case, I was wrong.

The good thing is that I’m an engineer and a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) so I knew what to do.  I uploaded my LOMA documents to the mortgage company’s website, called and chewed-out the poor phone center operator and learned that they had “been notified by FEMA” of “thousands of properties” that had just been remapped into the floodplain.  They would inform me of the result of their review of the documents that I submitted in 5 business days, “I’ll inform you…” I silently muttered to myself.

I am a CFM.  I was a founding member and past Chairman of the Will County Stormwater Management Planning Committee (WCSWMPC).  I was the first Executive Director of the WCSWMPC.  I am a past Will County Stormwater and Floodplain Administrator for unincorporated Will County.  I have written the stormwater and floodplain ordinances for probably a dozen governmental agencies.  These are just a few of my credentials.  This process was confusing and threatening to me, AND I KNEW WHAT TO DO!  How are “thousands” of property owners going to be able to navigate this process?

So, I’m going to give you 4 step process to follow.  I recommend this even if you don’t have a mortgage because a nearby floodplain will affect the property someday since someone will own the home after you, and they may need a mortgage.  That ditch across the street may even have a floodplain associated with it.

  1. WHEN IS FLOOD INSURANCE REQUIRED? If your home falls in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and you carry a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender, your lender is legally mandated to require flood insurance on your property. Typically, that's not the case if your home falls in a moderate-to-low risk area. However, a lender may require you to hold flood insurance at any time — even if the company is not legally mandated to do so, according to FEMA.gov.

  2. Visit https://www.floodsmart.gov/why/why-buy-flood-insurance to understand the importance of flood insurance.  Also read next month’s blog as I touch on the subject as well.

  3. Find out if your home is in a SFHA by going to https://msc.fema.gov/portal/home

    • Enter your address

    • Review the map that pops-up.

is the approximate location of the address.  However, you should be able to see your roof for the actual location of your home in the aerial photo.

 

is the floodplain portion of the SFHA.

  • If this touches your property, but not your home you MAY be required to obtain flood insurance, but an Elevation Certificate can be prepared, and a LOMA can probably be obtained to exclude the home from the SFHA.

  • If this touches your home, you WILL be required to obtain flood insurance, but an Elevation Certificate can be prepared, and a LOMA could potentially be obtained to exclude the home from the SFHA.

  • If this surrounds your home, you WILL be required to obtain flood insurance, and it is unlikely that a LOMA could be obtained to exclude the home from the SFHA.  However, the map can be in error and an engineer can review the map and advise you if a LOMA is possible.

 

is the floodway portion of the SFHA.

  • If this touches your property, but not your home you MAY be required to obtain flood insurance, but an Elevation Certificate can be prepared, and a LOMA can probably be obtained to exclude the home from the SFHA.

  • If this touches your home, you WILL be required to obtain flood insurance, but an Elevation Certificate can be prepared, and a LOMA could potentially be obtained to exclude the home from the SFHA.

  • If this surrounds your home, you WILL be required to obtain flood insurance, and it is unlikely that a LOMA could be obtained to exclude the home from the SFHA.  However, the map can be in error and an engineer can review the map and advise you if a LOMA is possible.

There are several other moderate to low-risk designations that my affect your property, but for this discussion, only the SFHA areas are important.

  1. Email me at hhamilton@hamiltonconsultingengineers.com, or call my office at (815) 730-3444.  We have several staff (Lee, Derek, Jeff, Jim, Tom, or Howard) that have been authorized by Kristen to work for 30 minutes, at no-charge, with individuals that require assistance with flood insurance issues.  We intend to launch a page on our website (https://hamiltonconsultingengineers.com/services.php?p=27) that will automate this process, but even after that is up, sometimes a patient voice can be a benefit.  All that I ask in exchange for some free work is that you:

    1. Hire us if you do need a LOMA, Elevation Certificate or lot survey.

    2. Spread the word

Keep Calm
    and 
Stay Dry

 

Howard