The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued revised Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for San Diego County that will become effective on Friday, December 20, 2019. These maps show areas that are considered to be in a floodplain, and therefore may require homeowners to obtain flood insurance. Disclosure of a Special Flood Hazard Area (any Zone “A” or “V”) that affects the property is a statutory requirement in California real estate transactions.
This alert updates our real estate customers about flood map changes that may affect your clients, insurance requirements which the changes may trigger, and opportunities that may benefit clients with lowered flood insurance costs. (To view the new maps on the FEMA website, see instructions at bottom.)
Updated FEMA Flood Zone Boundaries
According to the FEMA website, flood hazard areas identified on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are defined as the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. The 1-percent annual chance flood is also referred to as the base flood or “100-year flood.”
The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 mandate that federally regulated, supervised, or insured financial institutions and Federal Agency lenders require flood insurance for buildings located in a participating NFIP community and in a SFHA. Some financial institutions may require flood insurance for properties outside the SFHA as part of their own risk management process.
On December 20, 2019, revised FEMA flood maps become effective that will change flood zones in coastal San Diego County. The forthcoming map release will include 61 flood panels (including 3 index maps) affecting portions of the cities of San Diego, Oceanside, Imperial Beach, Encinitas, Coronado, Carlsbad, Solana Beach, Del Mar, National City, Chula Vista (in order of properties affected). The maps were last updated in 2016 (9 panels), 2012 (50), and 1997 (2).
Approximately 3,056 parcels that were not formerly in a SFHA have been included within this high-risk zone by the revised maps, over 90 percent of which are located in coastal neighborhoods of San Diego (1,496 parcels), Oceanside (1,024) and Imperial Beach (243), with the remainder in Encinitas (127), Coronado (67), Carlsbad (64), Del Mar (25), Chula Vista (9) and National City (4).
In addition, approximately 445 parcels have been removed from the high-risk SFHA by the updated maps, over 90 percent in San Diego (328), Encinitas (61) and Solana Beach (30), with the remainder in Coronado (19), National City (11), Oceanside (6) and Carlsbad (2).
Note that the numbers above are estimates only. For the legal flood status of parcels in San Diego County after the new zones become effective, inquire with your insurance agent.
Changes May Impact the Cost of Home Ownership
Homeowners and prospective buyers may wish to check with their insurance agent to see if the property’s flood zone, and insurance requirements, will be affected by the map changes when they become effective. Provisions of the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (enacted in October 2013) require the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to raise insurance rates for some older properties in high-risk areas to reflect true flood risk. Many properties in high-risk areas that were built before the community adopted its first FIRM do not meet current standards for construction and elevation, and they have been receiving subsidized insurance rates that do not reflect their actual risk. The subsidized rates are being eliminated in some cases. (Source: NFIP at www.floodsmart.gov ) Ask your insurance agent for details as future legislation may amend some provisions of the Biggert-Waters Act.
In addition, where properties are drawn into a high-risk flood zone, building permits for future construction may require design standards that minimize flood risk, which could increase project cost. Such development impacts, as well as insurance requirements that may be triggered by new or revised flood zones, and potential increases in flood insurance costs, may be material in a buyer’s decision to purchase real estate and require disclosure where properties are affected. Moreover, the NFIP now requires an elevation certificate in order to obtain flood insurance in some high-risk cases.
Even though flood insurance is not required outside of the high-risk 100-year flood zone, it still may be a wise investment. In the lower-risk zones flood insurance is cheaper, yet FEMA notes that one-third of all flood claims paid last year were for policies in low-risk communities. FEMA adds that, on average, a home has a 26 percent chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9 percent chance of fire.
View the Flood Maps on FEMA website — Follow these steps on the FEMA website to view the flood maps effective December 20, 2019:
To view pending flood maps follow these steps:
1. Go to https://msc.fema.gov/portal/home
2. Enter the property address and click the blue “Search” button.
3. A screen will appear displaying “Search Results”, to the right click on “Show ALL Products” (may take 10 seconds or more).
4. Click “Pending Product” and then “FIRM Panels”.
5. Click the “View” icon of the desired map panel to see the future flood map.
6. Use the zoom tool to enlarge the flood map when it appears.
To view the currently effective flood maps follow steps 1 and 2 above, then:
3. In the map grid that appears, click on the desired map location.
4. Click the “Map Image” icon to view that current flood map.
A list of the FEMA flood zone designations can be viewed at this address: