HOW TO DISPUTE A FEMA FLOOD ZONE DETERMINATION
Most lenders will contact a Flood Zone Determination company to obtain a Standard Flood Hazard Determination (SFHD) as part of their closing process and in most cases a property insurance agent will make the same request from the same or a different Flood Zone Determination company. With two or more SFHDs being produced for a single location, disagreements in results can arise. These discrepancies can delay closing or the placement of a flood insurance policy.
Every SFHD is completed using the same data source, the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). However, there is more than one method that determination companies use to arrive at these determinations. Because of this, determination companies all have a formal dispute process to resolve such discrepancies. If a discrepancy is found, you should insist that every party that obtained a SFHD dispute it with their determination company. Don’t just pick the one you like and dispute the rest, save time by having them all rechecked from the start. The dispute process may take a few days but it should resolve most discrepancies and allow your closing or flood insurance policy placement to continue with minimal interruption.
The dispute process verifies every step of the determination process to ensure the correct location is being accurately determined. Most companies will also provide graphics called exhibits to support their findings. These exhibits may have to be specifically requested but can assist with getting all parties on the same page.
If the determination companies cannot reach agreement, FEMA has two processes that will help. The first is a Letter of Determination Review (LODR). FEMA will review the lender’s determination and tell you if they agree with it or not. The drawback with this process is that the lender has to sign a letter agreeing with the request, there is a non-refundable application fee, and there is a 45-day turnaround. The other option is a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). This process can take up to 60 days, but it provides a binding determination from FEMA that all parties will honor. The drawback with this process is that it may require an elevation certificate, and depending on the circumstances of the property, there may be an application fee (if fill dirt has been placed).
So, to recap,
• Dispute all Standard Flood Hazard Determinations.
• Request exhibits from the Flood Zone Determination companies.
• If needed, share the exhibits among the Flood Zone Determination companies.
• Contact FEMA if the discrepancy is still not resolved after the disputes
If you have any questions or require assistance in getting a dispute, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help.