Flood insurance requirement out of line

Letter writer questions flood insurance requirements that banks now have.

Published on December 26, 2013 11:12AM

My wife Julie and I live on a farm in Skagit County west of Mount Vernon, Wash. Julie’s parents were dairy farmers for decades. She raises miniature donkeys. Recently, after her mother’s passing, Julie inherited the farm. It is located about 2 miles west of the Skagit River and 2 miles southeast from Puget Sound. There are several old barns on the property with openings on one end. Some are partially dirt and others have full dirt floors. The barns are between 60 and 100 years old with the oldest barn listed as an historic barn in the state of Washington.

Recently we acquired a low interest home equity line of credit loan with the understanding we would need to insure the home for flood insurance that would cover the loan. When acquiring the flood insurance we were told by the bank that we would have to insure any other buildings which have a full concrete floor as required by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), so we insured an abandoned milk parlor and an old calf barn, which we use for storage. Each building requires a separate policy. The total flood insurance amounts to $120,000, which is $20,000 more than the maximum of the line of credit.

I believe it may have flooded here in 1917 before there were dikes. We are located within the flood zone on FEMA’s flood map along with many other farms and homes in Skagit Valley.

Last month we received a letter from the bank notifying us that we needed to insure all of our outbuildings whether or not they had dirt floors for full cost replacement with a separate policy required on each structure which FEMA required. When we talked to our insurance company they stated as of Oct 1, 2013, he has to include a stamped elevation certificate from a surveyor for each outbuilding with the application for flood insurance for each building as required by FEMA. I called another local bank to verify these rules and they told me, yes, in fact they were true. They said FEMA was doing bank audits of flood policies and fining banks that did not comply with those guidelines.

I believe we have more than enough flood insurance at this time. I also believe that this is just another nail in the farmer’s coffin. The loan could only be for $10,000 and these requirements would still be in effect. How would an elderly farming couple obtaining a reverse mortgage be able to afford this? I am also concerned about how you would go about selling your farm with the understanding the buyer would be burdened with these inflated costs.

I am hoping that writing this letter will somehow bring attention to this matter, which I believe to be not only unfair to us, but all the farms it will affect.

Todd Frankenfield

Mount Vernon, Wash.