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FEMA Flood Zones and the Mandatory Purchase Requirement

This article is written to aid the general public in understanding the mandatory purchase requirement and FEMA’s flood zone designations. It describes the FEMA zones and the mandatory purchase requirement at a high level and provides some details for those who have interest in nuances.

What is a pre-FIRM Flood Insurance Discount?

Pre-FIRM flood insurance means you can receive discounted flood insurance premiums from the federal government because your house was built before FEMA created a flood map for your property.

For most properties, pre-FIRM flood insurance discounts are available if your property was built before 12/1/1974. The actual date varies a little bit because all the flood maps were not created at the same time, so you’ll have to check with a professional (like MassiveCert) to know the exact date. If your property was built before a builder could have known about the flood risk, then you get a special discount on your flood insurance premiums.

Flood Compliance Is Not Flood Safety

So, you had a concern when you purchased your home that you might be required to get flood insurance because there are high risk flood zones nearby. Luckily, your lender said you are not mapped into one of those Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA or the “100-year flood”), so, of course you didn’t get flood insurance because it wasn’t required – right?

Well, you might want to reconsider that decision because Mother Nature doesn’t care about compliance with home purchasing requirements in the USA. You may not be safe from flood risk even if you are “compliant”, but there is a way to find out what your flood risk is.

How to get a Free FEMA Elevation Certificate

Yes, you can get a free FEMA Elevation Certificate and it’s not that hard to do. An Elevation Certificate can be used over and over again – all you have to do is update the photos in the document. It’s perfectly legal and accepted practice by FEMA, but not everybody knows about it.

Here’s how to do it step-by-step.

Why did my Flood Zone Change and what do I do about it?

Your flood zone changed because FEMA updated your flood map due to natural and man-made events that occur over time. FEMA flood map updates are published 26 times a year and could cause you to pay higher or lower insurance premiums, pay insurance for the first time, or remove the insurance requirement from your property. You cannot stop a flood, but you can rebuild your life afterward when you are insured by the federal government or a private market policy that your loan servicer must accept.

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