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Federal program could affect renovations for some homeowners

Dec 20, 2018, 13:54 PM

Bay County property owners whose significantly damaged homes or businesses are located within a floodplain should make sure that their insurance adjusters are aware and take this information into consideration when making payment assessments.

Since 1981, Bay County has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program aimed at ensuring that federal flood insurance is available to citizens who own property within a regulatory flood zone. Without the availability of federal flood insurance, only private flood insurance options remain, which can be prohibitively expensive. Flood insurance is required on any structure in the floodplain that has a federally backed mortgage.

The NFIP requires that if the cost of any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50 percent of the building’s market value, the work is considered a “substantial improvement.” The existing building is then required to meet the same standards as a new building, which, for residential structures, typically means raising the living area to the base flood elevation or above.

Therefore, floodplain homes or buildings damaged by Hurricane Michael in excess of 50 percent may need elevated foundations to be in compliance with the federal program.

“We’ve gotten some calls from people who weren’t aware that these regulations applied to them in a flood zone,” Bay County Manager Bob Majka said, “only to later realize, after the insurance payment had been made, that the renovations they will need to make are significantly more substantial and expensive.”

The NFIP’s substantial improvement requirements are enforced through the Bay County development and building permitting process. Applicants for remodeling or repair of non-conforming structures are required to submit a cost estimate of improvements and an appraised value, either from the Property Appraiser or a private appraisal, of the existing structure to determine if the work constitutes a substantial improvement.

All of Bay County’s municipalities participate in the NFIP, as do most counties and cities in Florida.

To find out if your property is located within a floodplain, visit http://www.baycountyfl.gov/508/FEMA-Flood-Zones

If you live in unincorporated Bay County and would like or more information, please call 248-8250. If you live inside a municipality, please call your city.

Important insurance information