All of the Keys are in Costal Flood zones that can be affected by hurricane force winds ad flooding, which dictates how properties are built and affects your insurance policies. A great overall site for information in Monroe County regarding flood zones can be accessed here.
There are 3 designations for flood zones, VE, AE, and X. VE is direct coastal waterfront, with the highest risk of flooding. The cost of insuring a building located in a VE zone is prohibitive! Most structures are located in some AE Zone. The most common AE numbers are AE6 through AE11. The lower the number the better!
In order to determine the relationship of the FLA or Floor Living Area to the FEMA flood zone, an Elevation Certificate is required. That will show whether the property is above flood, at flood, or below flood levels, based on the Fema map. All structures built after 1975 were required to be built above flood.
Most properties built prior to 1975, that were built below flood, are considered to be legal nonconforming (to current code) and are grandfathered in for insurance purposes. If those below flood Floor Living Areas were part of the original construction and not added after the fact, they should be legal and are insurable. Any structure built after 1975 that has living area below flood is ILLEGAL nonconforming.
The flood maps are changing and there is a FEMA preliminary flood map that you can type in an address to see what flood zone a particular property is in and what the proposed new zone will be. These flood maps are used to help create Elevation Certificates (EC) when a survey is done. The EC calculates the relationship between the Floor Living Area (FLA) of a home to the flood zone it is in.
For example, lets say that a home in in the flood zone of AE8. The EC shows that the base floor elevation is at 9'6". That means that that home is one foot six inches above flood. But what if the EC showed that the base floor elevation was only 7'3" in the same AE8 zone? Well that home would be nine inches below flood. Insurance rates would be higher, but not nearly as much as a home that is say, 3 feet below flood.
Periodically FEMA reviews the data that they have and every so often suggests changes to those maps. Those proposed changes go through lengthy review before becoming official. There is some great information here on the Monroe County website: Proposed Flood Maps.
The general assumption is that all the changes will be for the worse, and certainly in many cases that is true. Surprisingly, there are many areas that are benefiting from the proposed changes. The bottom line is that if the AE number decreases, that is a good thing! We will walk you through how to look at those changes!
Did you see how much of the map has changed! It appears that all of the building in now in the x-zone! The way insurance works is that before the change, if this were a singe family home, the rates would be based on the relationship of the Floor Living Area to the Flood zone.
In the old map the insurance would use the lowest portion of the map that the building is in. With the proposed map, it would now be in the x-zone, a much more desirable status! Of course being a public building, we are making comments that would normally apply to single family homes!
All information on this page regarding flood zones and flood maps is personal opinions and should not be relied on. Please contact Monroe County or FEMA for accurate information.