This is a cautionary tale of the bureaucratic red tape for commercial property owners subject to the imposition of flood insurance requirements. It is a story we are following out of Snohomish County, Washington. It can happen anywhere due to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) updated policies requiring buildings in flood zones to comply with current standards.
In Businesses Drowning in Flood Insurance Rates, Stanwood Camano News reporter Jana Mosely conveys the frustration of a small business property owner. Seven years ago, the property owner renovated its building, investing tens of thousands of dollars to have it certified as flood proofed. This year FEMA notified the property owner that the certification was no longer valid and, as a result, the flood insurance premium increased from $1,500.00 a year to $10,000 a year.
They are requiring people who have been certified flood proofed to get recertified, Blank [property owner] said. Well, it’s almost impossible to do”
FEMA describes flood proofing as “a combination of adjustments and/or additions of features to buildings that eliminate or reduce the potential for flood damage.” Examples of this include installation of watertight closures for doors and windows; reinforcement of walls to withstand floodwater pressures; use of membranes and other sealants to reduce seepage of floodwater; and installation of pumps to control interior water levels.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) states that, “a registered professional engineer or architect shall develop and/or review structural design, specification, and plans for the construction, and shall certify that the design and methods of construction are in accordance with the accepted standards of practice.”
Blank initially reached out to her original architect, Dave Pelletier, of Pelletier + Schaar, for recertification. Problem is FEMA’s new regulations are not making this an easy task.
Pelletier stated that while FEMA wants the architect of a structure to certify the building is designed to sustain a flood once it is constructed, he believes that should come from the contractor, as they are the one building it.
Now mired in a sea of red tape, the small business owner has put the building on the market for sale.
This story underscores the importance of being proactive about flood risk. If you own, manage or represent property subject to flood insurance requirements, be diligent about flood risk:
- Stay informed of rate map changes in your area.
- Contact your legislative representatives and tell them unequal treatment of property owners is unacceptable.
- Conduct a flood risk evaluation, a proactive strategy to mitigate flood risk, protect the real estate investment and verify whether the structure is built to minimize the risk of flooding.
Contact AmeriFlood Solutions for more information including a complimentary flood risk evaluation performed by an expert team of flood risk professionals.