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Purchasing Coastal Real Estate - pg. 3

12/14/2012

If my oceanfront property becomes threatened by erosion can I:

(1) Construct a seawall?

No. Seawalls, bulkheads, revetments, groins, jetties or breakwaters are not allowed along the beaches of North Carolina. These "hard" erosion-control devices can damage the beach and adjacent properties.

(2) Construct temporary erosion-control structures such as sand bags?

If a building is severely threatened by erosion, the property owner may apply for a permit to place sandbags or build artificial sand dunes with bulldozers to allow more time to move or relocate the building. Both are temporary measures and require permits from the Division of Coastal Management. A sandbag structure must be removed within two years and may be constructed only once per oceanfront lot, even if ownership of the lot changes.

(3) Replenish the eroding shoreline by placing sand from an outside source onto my property?

Yes. Beach replenishment is allowed in North Carolina. However, it is expensive and generally provides only temporary relief. Also, to be effective, it must extend beyond the beach in front of a single property and include long stretches of ocean shoreline.

(4) Move my house away from the eroding shoreline?

Yes. House-moving is an allowable and cost-effective means of getting a structure out of harm's way. If space allows, a structure can be moved landward on the same lot; otherwise, it can be relocated to new property. Regardless of where the building is moved, it must meet existing setback requirements. [NOTE: As of 1993, new development permits for oceanfront structures require owners to move or dismantle buildings threatened by erosion; i.e., buildings that are less than 20 feet from the line of stable dune vegetation nearest the sea.]

[For information on site-specific erosion control projects, contact your local building official, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.]

Can I get insurance for damage resulting from erosion and flooding?

Possibly. You may be able to purchase a flood insurance policy which is usually separate from a standard homeowner's policy. The National Flood Insurance Program was established by Congress to make flood insurance available nationwide to eligible properties. Policies issued under the National Flood Insurance Program include conditions and costs dictated by federal requirements. The federal government in turn guarantees to pitch in if losses occur-thus encouraging private companies to write affordable policies for areas that might normally be considered too risky. Large discounts on premiums often are available for buildings constructed above minimum standards. For example, discounts are available for buildings elevated on pilings higher than required to avoid storm-surge flooding.

There is a limit to single-family home coverage under the NFIP. Owners should inquire about these limits. If the owner wishes to purchase excess flood coverage, or if the property is not eligible for the NFIP, the owner may be able to procure flood insurance coverage from a private insurer. Private insurers regularly reassess whether or not to offer coverage.

Is flood insurance mandatory for coastal property?

No law requires that an owner buy or maintain flood insurance. However, federally insured lenders, including mortgage companies, banks and savings and loan associations require flood insurance for the life of their lien if the property is in an identified flood-prone area. Failure to maintain coverage may permit the lender to declare the balance of the loan due and payable.

Flood-prone areas are identified on Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which should be available at the local building official's office. If your building is not in a flood-prone area or you haven't secured a mortgage to purchase your property, flood insurance is optional. However, when building or buying near the ocean, flood insurance is always a good idea, even if it's not required.

[For information about flood insurance and discounts, contact your local building official, insurance agent, N.C. Department of Insurance or the federal Flood Insurance Program.]

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