You Don’t Need Flood Insurance in San Diego – Maybe

Civil Engineers San Diego

Are Those Flood Insurance Premiums Necessary?

Bruce Tait is an engineer you’ll want to know if you have any questions concerning land development or public works engineering.  Tait Consulting is a civil engineering firm located in Oceanside, and they provide expertise all over San Diego County and Southern California.  This information in this article was provided by Bruce Tait, and contributed to by our own staff.

Risk of Flooding in San Diego

Is there a risk of flooding in San Diego?  Well you bet there is.  I live near one of the bridges spanning the San Luis Rey river in Bonsall, and people still don’t believe me when I tell them about seeing water coming OVER the bridge twenty some years ago.  We’ve got mountains and valleys, and ground that doesn’t hold much, so flooding after a lot of rain and snowpack (this year, for example) is a very real possibility.

So if there’s a risk, how do we as individuals assess that risk, and for the purposes of this article, how do insurance companies assess that risk?

FEMA and FIRMs – FEMA and Flood Insurance Rate Maps

Do you really need the expense of those flood insurance premiums? Flood insurance for your home, or for your commercial and industrial property may be perfectly justified, but in some cases, it may not be necessary.

We know – the premiums are expensive!

Your property may be in an area of higher flooding risk as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA has prepared Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that show areas where there is a risk of flooding during certain large storms. Or, you may feel that there is a risk of flooding even if the risk is not shown. In some cases, your mortgage holder may require flood insurance. Many times the lender requires that you purchase flood insurance if your property is in a risk area shown on the FIRMs.

FEMA states on their website that the FIRMs are based on studies that could not investigate minor variations in topography. Therefore, there may be areas where an entire neighborhood is included in a flood risk zone, but portions of the neighborhood should not have been included. Or, certain lots are low enough to be flooded during a major storm, but the entire house or structure could be high enough to avoid flooding.

It is possible that your home, office or industrial building could be safe from flooding, but was included in a flood hazard zone due to lack of sufficient information. Some examples:

In a mobile home park adjacent to a creek north of Escondido, several spaces were shown to be in a flood hazard area. Mortgage companies providing financing for mobile homes in these spaces sometimes required flood insurance. After a detailed analysis of the topography in the area, surveys of the ground adjacent to the mobile homes, review of the flood plain studies provided by FEMA, and analysis of the flood plain elevations, it was determined that the mobile homes were on high enough land to be out of the flood plain. A Letter of Map Revision was submitted and was approved by FEMA. The letter removed the mobile homes from the flood hazard area. This allows the lenders to ease up on the requirements for flood insurance.

Another location where there are many properties that could be high enough to be removed from current flood hazard zones is the area along the San Luis Rey River in Oceanside. The delays in the remapping of the zones in this area are due to environmental constraints in the maintenance of the flood control project built by the Army Corps of Engineers. In the mean time, many property owners are paying premiums for flood insurance that may not be necessary. Some properties or structures in this area can be removed from flood hazard zones, if the property or structures are high enough. Letters of Map Amendment, or Letters of Map Revision can be processed through FEMA. If approved, the property or structures can be removed from the flood hazard designation. The requirement for flood insurance may be waived, subject to the discretion of the lender on the property.   In some cases, the flood insurance broker may be required to refund the previous year’s flood insurance premium.

To find out if your property can be removed from a flood hazard zone designation, and to get it removed:

1. Contact a registered civil engineer or land surveyor.

2. Ask them to investigate the FEMA and City records to determine if removal is likely.

3. If it is likely, have them conduct the necessary elevation survey to compare with FEMA Flood Insurance Studies.

4. Then have them prepare and submit the necessary applications for a Letter of Map Amendment or Revision.

Information on Flood Insurance Premiums in San Diego

If you would like to find out more about the possibility of avoiding unnecessary flood insurance premiums, please contact Tait Consulting, Inc. at 760-433-1166 x111.  Remember, too, that I’m available to help with information on your property.  As your local real estate professional I’m able to help you assess property values and the commercial and residential real estate markets in San Diego County, and along with the information Bruce Tait and his staff provide, help you determine what steps you should take to protect yourself and your real estate investments.

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