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Community, Environment, FEMA, NEW CONSTRUCTION, REMODELING, Sustainability, Uncategorized


What The FEMA is the 50% rule?

Today, let’s look at and explain the impact of FEMA’s raised flood plain and the 50% rule. Its application to  substantial improvement and substantial damage of a property and what this means for any building / renovation work needed to an existing property.

Deep breath and here we go. I will attempt to make an incredibly dry, long winded and mildly interesting subject, informative and short (ish). So bear with me.

First up! Who are FEMA?

FEMA stands for  – Federal Emergency Management Agency. In short these are the guys you will go to in the event of a disaster. Created in 1979, the agency’s primary purpose is to coordinate the response to a disaster that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities, plus has declared a “State of Emergency”. Think hurricanes, fires, flooding etc

The 50% rule

The so called “FEMA 50% Rule” is required by the NFIP ( National Flood Insurance Program.) FEMA’s flood insurance program which provides affordable flood insurance.

For instance if a community needs federally backed flood insurance to be made available to its citizens, then they MUST adopt and enforce the rules as required by the NFIP.

The FEMA 50% rule applies to any home or building where the lowest floor is below the 100-year flood elevation. In residential properties, only parking, building access and limited, incidental storage is allowed below the flood level.

Now does that make sense s far? I hope so?

At its most basic the 50% FEMA Rule means that –

If an improvement to an existing structure (building) cost is greater than 50% of the original structures value (which will be determined by a county appraiser),  it MUST be brought into compliance with the flood damage prevention regulations, in order to be insured. This includes elevating the building to, or above the 100-year flood elevation.

What is the Flood plain and the 100 year flood?

“A floodplain is an area of land that is susceptible to being inundated by floodwaters”. From Collier County flood plain management document http://www.colliercountyfl.gov/home/showdocument?id=72665

100-year flood means, that in any given year there is  1% chance of a flood in that area.

Are you still with me? Yes? So, lets move on to what is substantial improvement and damage?

What is Substantial Improvement?

Substantial Improvement  =

Any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or improvement to an existing structure. Where the cost of the improvement equals or exceeds 50 % of its market value, prior to the start of construction.

This term includes structures that have incurred “substantial damage.” Regardless of the cause of damage and the cost of repair work performed.

Note – Check State and the community’s floodplain management regulations and building codes to determine whether any local requirements are more restrictive. As they may well be.

What is substantial damage?

Substantial damage =

Damage sustained by a structure. Where the cost of restoring the structure to its original condition (pre damage) equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure pre damage.

Note – most damage occurs during a single and usually sudden event. For example, a fire, hurricane, lightning strike, falling tree, tornado, earthquake, flood, or natural gas explosion.

Damage may also be unrelated to a specific event. For example, soil settlement, exposure to the elements, termite infestation, vandalism, deterioration over time, and other causes. Information part quoted from the Collier County Website

Why is the 50% rule such a HOT topic?

Lets just put it out there – Global warming. Yes, Water levels are rising and that means FEMA have had to raise the flood plain to accommodate that change. Therefore, in most areas of coastal Florida, flood insurance becomes a necessity.

If we cannot slow this rise quick enough, then we have to be prepared for the rise in water and potential of increased flooding. With the seasonal hurricanes and resulting storm surges, buildings in the area are vulnerable and need to be built to, or brought up to flood management code. Hence for insurance purposes, that is where the 50% rule and the NFIP come in to play.

I know it is a very long and in depth subject, but for any work conducted, the team at Hlevel are well versed in the process and can guide you throughout. So please do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have – https://hlevel.info/contact/

For some not so exciting, but very informative in depth reading on the subject than please refer to the “Answers to Questions About Substantially Improved/ Substantially Damaged Buildings FEMA 213 / August 2018”

As provided by Collier County.

Thank you.