OK, the new Flood Maps are out and effective and I had the ‘opportunity’ recently to learn much more than I ever thought I would want to about flood insurance. First, for those of us in Palm Beach County, start here (http://maps.co.palm-beach.fl.us/cwgis/?app=floodzones) to determine what flood zone you MIGHT be in. Flood insurance is based on your building, specifically the lowest floor elevation of the living space, NOT your land. The problem is that most computer programs, like the one used by the County, can only ‘see’ where a flood zone contour crosses your property line. If the building is within the teal colored dotted area or the teal colored line around this area crosses through your building then at first look your ARE in the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) – Zones: A, AE, AH, AO.
If the contour passes close to your building or you think the map is wrong or your lender/insurer refuses to apply the logic outlined in the FEMA Flood Insurance Manual (FIM) on classifying the building you can apply to FEMA for a Letter of Mapp Revision. FEMA will tell you what the official determination is. The process is easy and it’s free if your house was built before 1974.
IF you are in a SFHA, or the line goes through your building or touches it or basically IF YOU ARE GETTING ANYTHING OTHER THAN A ‘PREFERRED RATE’ FLOOD POLICY then you should hire a Land Surveyor to prepare an Elevation Certificate and it all has to do with something called Freeboard. Freeboard is the distance between the Base Flood Elevation and your finished floor elevation. In my area the BFE is shown on the maps as BFE 6, which is 6′ above the 1988 datum or baseline. I am in Zone X but the zone AE (BFE 6) goes in front of my house. Let’s look at this and the difference in insurance costs for a Zone X and a Zone AE. Remember Zone AE is in the SFHA.
If you have an elevation certificate then you should, I THINK, be able to use the ‘Post FIRM’ Zone AE insurance rates found in the FIM which account for freeboard and are significantly lower. For comparison. A pre FIRM(pre 1974) building in Zone B,C,X,AR and A99 pays $344 for a preferred risk policy as a flat rate for 250k of building coverage. A pre FIRM building in Zone AE, where the AE zone contour goes through your house, is $2,304. BUT, if you have an elevation certificate and the finished floor inside your house is just 1′ above the 6′ elevation (BFE) then you pay $769 for 250k of coverage. If your interior floor is 2′ above the 6′ Base Flood Elevation defining this AE Zone then you pay $453 for 250k of building coverage. I was quoted $250 for an elevation certificate from Target Surveying.
An Elevation Certificate is well worth it.
Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). An area having special flood, mudflow or flood-related erosion hazards and shown on a Flood Hazard Boundary Map (FHBM) or a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) Zone A, AO, A1-A30, AE, A99, AH, AR, AR/A, AR/AE, AR/AH, AR/AO, AR/A1-A30, V1-V30, VE or V. For the purpose of determining Community Rating System (CRS) premium discounts, all AR and A99 zones are treated as non-SFHAs.
Shaded Zone X is a moderate risk areas within the 0.2-percent-annual-chance floodplain, areas of 1-percent-annual-chance flooding where average depths are less than 1 foot, areas of 1-percent-annual-chance flooding where the contributing drainage area is less than 1 square mile, and areas protected from the 1-percent-annual-chance flood by a levee. No BFEs or base flood depths are shown within these zones. (Zone X (shaded) is used on new and revised maps in place of Zone B.)
Why we live near the water…