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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 3, 2009

SCHUMER CALLS ON BANK TO EXTEND DEADLINE FOR FLOOD ZONE APPEAL TO SAVE HOMEOWNERS FROM PAYING UNNECESSARY INSURANCE FEES


Homeowners Must Buy Supplemental Insurance When Their Home Is in a FEMA Flood Zone; Home Owners Can Appeal Flood Hazard Declaration, But Are Currently Given Only 45 Days By Bank Of America

FEMA Takes Up To 60 Days To Certify That Property Is Not In Flood Zone, Leaving Families With Not Enough Time To Appeal

Oneida County Family, Whose Property Was Incorrectly Placed in Flood Zone, At Risk of Missing Appeals Deadline Because They Do Not Have Enough Time to Complete Process

In an effort to save homeowners in Oneida County and across the country from costly, mandatory and unnecessary flood insurance fees, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on Bank of America to grant borrowers 90 days to prepare an appeal to have their property removed from the flood zone map. Brian and Linda Conley of Camden, New York are currently in the process of an appeal but the bank’s 45 day deadline has not provided them with enough time to receive notice, verify insurance, or appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If the Conleys fail to submit their forms in the recommended amount of time, they will be forced to pay up to $2,400 a year for flood insurance.

 

Today, Schumer wrote to Bank of America and urged them to extend the deadline to 90 days in order to give the Conleys, and other families in similar situations across the country, time to prepare and submit an appeal.

 

“The Conleys, and families like them, have been working diligently to follow the flood map appeals process, but when it takes FEMA up to 60 days to fully evaluate an appeal, the 45 day deadline is simply not enough time to complete the process,” Schumer said. “In tough economic times, the last thing these homeowners need is an unwarranted $2,400 fee. That is why I am urging Bank of America to extend the appeals process to 90 days so that the Conleys and mortgage holders across the country have ample time to receive notice, appeal to FEMA and react.”

 

Bank of America requires the purchase of flood insurance if a property is located in a FEMA designated Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), but if a mortgage holder would like to challenge that designation, they are currently only allowed 45 days to appeal and respond. In October, Bank of America notified the Conleys that their property, was in a Hazard Zone. However, reviews by the Code Enforcement Officer and Flood Plain Administrator for the Town of Camden determined that the property was in fact, not in the floodplain or special hazard area. Additionally, FEMA verified that the property was not located in the floodplain and encouraged the Conleys to prepare and submit a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) to have the property removed from FEMA’s flood hazard area.

 

The Conleys have diligently followed the instructions for appeal but they simply do not have enough time to complete the full appeal process. Bank of America offered the Conleys 45 days to receive the notice, prepare a LOMA, file a LOMA, receive a response from FEMA, and react. Schumer noted that this is not a reasonable amount of time to complete all necessary actions, because it takes FEMA at least 30-60 days to evaluate and make final appeal determinations.

 

If the Conleys are forced to purchase the insurance they can still appeal to FEMA and be reimbursed at a later time, but for the Conleys and many families struggling with the economic downturn, this is not a viable option.

 

In an effort to save the Conleys and other families across the country from paying unnecessary, inexpensive flood insurance fees, Schumer today wrote to Bank of America urging them to extend the appeal deadline from 45 to 90 days.

 

In the letter he wrote, “As you can see, 45 days is simply unreasonable, and I urge the bank in the future to provide families with at least 90 days to respond to such requests. An extension is just and fair and would go far to help the Conleys and other families across the State of New York.”


A full copy of the letter is below

 

                                                                                                                                                                   

December 3, 2009

 

Kenneth Lewis

Chief Executive Officer

Bank of America

 

Dear Mr. Lewis:

 

I write today to urge Bank of America to revisit its policy requiring mortgage holders to provide verification of flood insurance or proof of FEMA exemption. The bank’s current 45 day policy does not provide borrowers adequate time to receive notice, verify insurance, or appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

 

It has been brought to my attention that Bank of America’s practices may be harmfully impacting New York families that are within or around newly defined FEMA flood zones.  For example, on October 15, 2009, Bank of America notified Brian and Linda Conley that their property is located in a FEMA designated Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), allowing 45 days to appeal and respond. As noted in Bank of America’s letter, flood insurance is required on all loans secured by properties located within SFHAs as determined by FEMA. However, there is evidence to support the Conley’s claim that their property, located at 10385 Van Buren Road, Camden, New York, is in fact not located within a flood hazard area. First, Tyler Henry, Code Enforcement Officer and Flood Plain Administrator for the Town of Camden, determined that the above referenced property is not in the floodplain or special hazard area. This determination was made after reviewing the Flood Insurance Rate Map Community-Panel Number 360523. More importantly, on November 19, 2009, a senior mitigation engineer at FEMA verified that this property is not located in the floodplain and encouraged the Conleys to prepare and submit a LOMA to have the property removed from FEMA’s flood hazard area.

 

The Conleys have worked hard their entire lives. Mr. Conley, a retired and disabled veteran, told my office that he wants to cooperate with the bank but that he simply needs time to prepare his appeal. Bank of America offered the Conleys an inadequate 45 days to receive the notice, prepare a LOMA, file a LOMA, receive a response from FEMA, and react. This is not a reasonable request, given that it takes FEMA at least 30-60 days to evaluate and make final appeal determinations. Bank of America should understand that families want to follow the rules and do what is right, but they need a reasonable amount of time to do so.

 

As you can see, 45 days is not a reasonable amount of time for appeal, and I urge the bank in the future to provide families with at least 90 days to respond to such requests. An extension is just and fair and would go far to help the Conleys and other families across the State of New York.

 

I look forward to hearing from you on this very important issue.

 

                                                                   Sincerely,

 

                                                           

                                                           

                                                            Charles Schumer

                                                            United States Senator

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