What If I Disagree With My Lender About Flood Zones

If I disagree with my lender’s determination that I am in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), what can I do?

In some cases, a lender determines that a property is in a SFHA shown on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) but the property owner disagrees with that determination. The SFHA, also known as the 100-year floodplain, is more precisely defined as the floodplain associated with a flood that has a 1-percent-annual chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. Therefore, the SFHA is not a flood event that happens once in a hundred years, rather a flood event that has a one percent chance of occurring every year. Property owners in this situation have a couple of options. Depending on the specific circumstances, you may apply for a Letter of Determination Review (LODR), a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F).

To submit a LOMA or LOMR-F online, visit the Online Letter of Map Change (LOMC) web page and begin filling your application request through FEMA’s Online LOMC tool. If you do not wish to submit a request online, you may submit through FEMA’s MT-EZ or MT-1 paper forms submitted through the mail. Use these forms and step-by-step instructions to ensure your request is completed and logically structured. While completing the forms may seem burdensome, the advantages to you outweigh any inconvenience. The following paragraphs describe first the LOMA or LOMR-F process, followed by the LODR process.

Upon receiving a completed MT-EZ (for LOMAs) or MT-1 (for LOMR-Fs) application, FEMA reviews property-specific information (including surveyed elevation data, typically the elevation of the lowest adjacent grade of the structure in question, provided by a Licensed Land Surveyor Note: the homeowner may be required to hire a land surveyor to perform this elevation survey, if this data is not readily available) and makes a final flood zone determination for the property. Once an application and all necessary data are received, the determination is normally issued within 30 – 60 days. If the LOMA or LOMR-F removes the SFHA designation from the property, it can then be presented to the lender as proof that there is no federal flood insurance requirement for the property. However, even though a LOMA or LOMR-F may waive the federal requirement for flood insurance, a lender retains the prerogative to require flood insurance. No fee is charged for the review of a LOMA; however, there is a review fee for a LOMR-F. View FEMA’s Flood Map-Related Fees webpage.

Within 45 days following the date your lender notified you that your property is in the SFHA shown on the FIRM for your community, you and your lender may jointly request that FEMA review your lender’s determination. FEMA’s response to such requests is a LODR. In response to such requests, FEMA reviews the same information your lender used to determine that your structure was located in an SFHA. Unlike with a LOMA or LOMR-F, the elevation of the structure or property relative to the elevation of the 1-percent-annual-chance flood is not considered for a LODR. Just like your lender, FEMA only considers the location of the structure relative to the SFHA boundary shown on the FIRM. FEMA reviews this information and issues its finding of whether the structure is located in the SFHA according to the currently effective FIRM. While this determination cannot consider the elevation of your structure or property, it can be useful if you feel the lender’s interpretation of the FIRM is incorrect.

There are obviously some important distinctions between the processes (LODR, LOMA and LOMR-F).

  1. The determinations are based on different data.

The LODR process does not consider the elevation of the structure or property. Rather, it considers only the horizontal location of the structure relative to the SFHA shown on the FIRM. For the LOMA and LOMR-F processes, actual survey elevation data are required to determine if the property or structure is at or above the 1-percent-annual-chance flood elevation.

  1. There are different review and processing fees involved.
  1. The determinations result in different actions.

A LODR does not result in an amendment or revision to the FIRM. It only presents the FEMA finding regarding the structure’s location with respect to a delineated SFHA. An approved LOMA or LOMR-F actually removes the SFHA designation from the structure or lot by letter.