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FEMA Rules

FEMA rules apply to waterfront homes and those in the nearby areas wanting to stay above water--figuratively and financially. Be advised to find out what your flood zones are before undergoing any repairs or remodels.

What Does FEMA Stand For?

FEMA stands for Federal Emergency Management Agency. It became part of the United States Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003; thereby, bringing a coordinated approach to national security from both natural and man-made disasters and emergencies.

The primary purpose of FEMA is to organize a response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States which overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurs must declare a state of emergency and formally request from the President that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster.

The Purpose of the FEMA 50% Rule

As it relates to you, the homeowner: FEMA would prefer that you rebuild your home above the flood level to reduce water damage during a major storm, as well as their financial outlay to cover those damages. However, they have set a threshold for remodel/repair costs in the flood zones. 

Current regulations allow you to remodel/repair your home up to 50% of your building's value. This does not include the value of your land.

Therefore, it is prudent for homeowners in beach and other waterfront communities throughout Florida to first determine which flood zone they're in before any plans are drawn for reparations or remodels, because if you don't . . .

FEMA Rules May Thwart Your Plans

Let's say your project goes over the 50% threshold (easy to do when your work is substantial), you are then required to bring your house up to "code" per FEMA Rules which means your whole house will have to be raised above flood level.

So, you now see why following the FEMA 50% Rule is very important for budgetary considerations and determining the scope of work for your home remodeling project.

How Do I Know What the 50% Threshold Is?

As with most things in life, there is a safe bet and one that is more of hedging your bets, especially, when praying for the stars and planets to align perfectly. So, let's first look at the rainbow and unicorn method . . .

The Assessed Value Method

If your home remodel/repair project is small or of minor work, you can calculate your home's assessed value* by visiting your county appraiser's office or website. Even though the assessed value from the county is established for tax purposes, some building departments may be satisfied with this dollar value, some may not which is why a call to your building department is recommended. 

* The assessed value includes your property (land) value which must be deducted when figuring your assessed building value.

And, now on to the safe bet method . . .

The Property Appraisal Method

Whether your project is minor or substantial, it is recommended that you obtain a property appraisal. Be sure when speaking with the appraiser you request a building replacement appraisal. This will not only give a higher value than the county's assessed value which is for taxes only but will increase your 50% threshold for more repairs/remodels that you want to do; it will also accurately satisfy FEMA Rules.

How Do I Know What Flood Zone I'm In?

FEMA Maps

If you're feeling adventurous, you can see what flood zone your property is in by going directly to the FEMA Flood Maps.

FEMA Map and Flood Zones

WARNING: to navigate this map it is a bit clunky and cumbersome but worth the effort.

For detailed instructions and pictures to guide you through the process, visit our Flood Zones guide page. We'll see you on the other side :)


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  So . . .

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