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Living with Levees: Information for Real Estate, Lending, and Insurance Professionals

This section provides information to real estate, lending, and insurance professionals that operate in communities near levees. Professionals can learn about how to help reduce risk in these communities and what it takes to be an informed resource for community members that may come to them for assistance.

Know Your Risk, Know Your Role, Take Action Today!

Levees Do Not Eliminate Flood Risk

Living and working near levees comes with risk. Levees may reduce risk during certain flood events, but they do not provide protection from flooding. Even without a major flood, levees can fail if they are not properly maintained. Improper drainage, erosion, seepage, subsidence, and even earthquakes can all lead levees to fail and result in catastrophic flooding.

When levees no longer meet the minimum federal requirements for reducing flood hazard, they are shown as non-accredited levees on a community’s flood maps and the area behind them is shown as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA, the area inundated by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood). The SFHA is a high-hazard area. Learn more about FEMA levee accreditation mapping, which provides information on different levee accreditation statuses and associated flood hazards.

Reducing Risk – It Is A Shared Responsibility

Knowing and reducing the flood risk in a community is a shared responsibility. As a real estate, lending, or insurance professional, it is important for you to understand and properly communicate your clients’ risks associated with levees and the importance of flood insurance to reduce financial risk to homes and businesses that are at risk from flooding.

For example, when selling a building, the owner should disclose whether the property is located in or is soon-to-be in an area designated as a SFHA. This includes areas behind a levee system that is no longer accredited. Most lenders will require the buyer to purchase flood insurance before the sale closes. For properties located in areas newly designated as SFHA, the NFIP provides rating options to help lower the cost of flood insurance. Real estate and lending professionals should inform the owner that options are available and insurance professionals should then review all rating options with their client.

Some buildings that are being bought or sold may (or will) be located in areas designated as a moderate-to-low hazard flood zone (Zone X (shaded or unshaded)), including properties behind levee systems that are accredited or provisionally accredited. While the current or new owner will not be federally required to purchase flood insurance in these areas, a lender can still require it. Lending and real estate professionals should encourage clients to strongly consider flood insurance and to talk to their insurance agent for more information, since the flood hazard around the levee is just reduced, not removed.

Use the tools FEMA has created to better understand the relationship between levees, flood risks and insurance.

Be An Informed Resource

Real estate, lending, and insurance professionals play an important role in helping people purchase and financially safeguard what may be their biggest asset: their home or business. Consequently, home and business owners will turn to you for information. Here are some tips to help better assist your clients.

  • Know the facts about levees. Flooding does occur in areas behind levees and levees can and do fail. Because of these unique flood risks, it is important that properties behind levees carry flood insurance, even if they are not shown in the SFHA. More than 20 percent of all flood claims come from moderate or low hazard areas (Zone X (shaded or unshaded)).
  • Help your clients understand their risks. Know where the levees are in the communities you serve, and what level of risk reduction they provide. You may want to contact local officials to find out what areas are likely to flood should a levee fail or be overtopped. You may also wish to find out if the area is being remapped and if the status of the levee has or will be changing. Remember that levee system construction or restoration projects planned or underway may reduce flood insurance premium rates once the project reaches certain completion milestones. Use the tools FEMA has created to help communities understand the relationship between levees and flood risk.
  • Be informed about flood insurance. Flood insurance is required for most loans for properties in the SFHA, and it is also strongly recommended for the moderate hazard areas (Zone X (shaded)) impacted by accredited levees where flood insurance policies can be purchased at a significantly reduced cost.

Levee Outreach Toolkit

FEMA’s Levee Outreach Toolkit can assist you in communicating effectively about levees.  The toolkit includes templated, flexible materials which you can adapt and use to keep your clients informed about flood risks behind levees.  Users are encouraged to adapt the materials as needed and use the fact sheet templates to create any additional pieces they may need.  Levee outreach toolkit materials are organized by three different levee status designations:

  • Levee Systems Not Accredited
  • Levee Systems are Accredited
  • Levee Systems are Provisionally Accredited

You can access the Levee Outreach Toolkit materials through the Levee Status page for Real Estate, Lending, and Insurance Professionals, which also features detailed information on each of these different status designations.

Additional levee outreach toolkit materials developed for community officials are available through the Community Officials:  Levee Outreach Toolkit  web page.

For More Information

For additional information on levees, levee risk, levee safety, and mapping, visit FEMA’s Levee Resources Library or use the resources listed above. Additional resources can be found in the Levee Tools, Templates and Success Stories for Community Outreach, which contains useful fact sheets on:

  • Levees and Insurance Fact Sheet
  • Zone D and Levees Fact Sheet
  • Risk and Mitigation Fact Sheet for Property Owners

For additional information on levees, levee risk, levee safety, and mapping, visit FEMA’s Levee Resources Library or use the resources listed above.

Answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions are provided for the following user groups: homeowners, engineers, surveyors and architects, insurance professionals and lenders, and floodplain managers.

For additional information or assistance, contact a Map Specialist in the FEMA Mapping and Insurance eXchange (FMIX) through the following methods:

  • Call (877) FEMA MAP (877-336-2627) Monday through Friday, 8:00 am through 7:00 pm (ET)
  • Email
  • Chat with a Map Specialist Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (ET)

Subscribe to receive updates on FEMA Flood Hazard Mapping activities, including updates on levee-related activities, via e-mail.

Last Updated: 
06/05/2020 - 08:25