Monroe County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides all homeowners and businesses an opportunity to purchase flood insurance at federally subsidized rates.
Following a hurricane, FEMA requires the county and municipalities to make damage inspections and determinations on whether the costs to improve or repair a damaged building or structure are estimated to equal or exceed 50 percent of the building’s fair market value (2017 tax assessed value plus 20 percent).
These determinations are done using software provided by FEMA. The intent is that structures damaged beyond 50 percent need to be improved to meet current floodplain regulations and building codes. That way, in future storms, similar damage will not occur and improving structures will prevent unsafe conditions.
County and FEMA staff worked together to complete inspections for all structures in the flood zone in unincorporated Monroe County to determine if the damage caused by Hurricane Irma is estimated to be “substantial.” Other sources of information were used to determine damage, including flooding depth grids and pre- and post-storm pictorial aerials.
As required by FEMA, the owners of structures in unincorporated Monroe County that appear to be substantially damaged as a result of the hurricane, will receive a letter indicating the county has estimated they have substantial damage. Some have already been sent, and others are in the process of being sent. (The Keys’ municipalities are conducting their own substantial damage assessments).
These letters say that if the property owner disagrees with the determination, they may submit the following during permitting for improvements to their structures:
1. Cost estimate for the repair of all damages sustained to their structures, prepared and signed by a licensed general contractor. The contractor will be required to sign an affidavit indicating the cost estimate submitted includes all damages to the structure. Please note: any additional renovations or improvements that an owner is planning to make to the structure while repair work is underway must be included in the contractor’s estimate.
2. A Uniform appraisal of the market value of your structure before the damage occurred.
Once the final value of the structure and the contractor’s certified cost estimates are completed and agreed upon, and if the structure is determined to be substantially damaged and the structure is below the minimum required flood elevation, the structure must be brought into compliance with Chapter 122 Floodplain Management (Monroe County Code), the Florida Building Code, and other local, state and federal codes.
The Florida Building Code also requires an analysis of the amount of damage and may necessitate code compliant improvements.
This Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code also impact redevelopment of structures and uses of buildings damaged beyond 50 percent of their value.
In order to meet these codes, owners may decide to:
• Elevate their structures, or change them in some other way to comply with those regulations to avoid future losses;
• Relocate or demolish the structure; or,
• Flood-proof a nonresidential structure.
If the damage was caused by flooding and if you have a flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program, you should contact your adjuster to discuss the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage. This coverage may provide a claim payment to help pay for work required to bring your home into compliance. Your adjuster can explain that the ICC claim may also be used to pay certain costs associated with demolishing and rebuilding your home, or moving your home to a site outside of the floodplain.
Please be advised that almost all repairs, reconstruction and new construction are subject to the Monroe County Regulations and the Florida Building Code, and require a permit. Construction activities conducted without a proper permit may be considered non-compliant and may result in daily fines and/or the removal of the non-compliant construction through Code Compliance.
Prior to beginning repairs, improvements or reconstruction, contact the Monroe County Building Department for a permit to bring your structure into compliance with the current floodplain regulations and/or Florida Building Code requirements.
In the coming months, the floodplain coordinators and building plan examiners will be working closely with permit applicants to collect additional information to document the costs of making repairs to damaged structures.
Failing to enforce floodplain requirements could put the County in jeopardy of losing flood insurance, disaster assistance and federal-backed loans and grants for our citizens.
For questions regarding a homeowner’s substantial damage determination or to request a copy of the detailed substantial damage determination inspection report, please contact Lori Lehr, Monroe County Floodplain Program, at (305) 407-6585 or via email at FloodInformation@MonroeCounty-fl.gov.
Attached is a template of the substantial damage letter sent to homeowners in unincorporated Monroe County and a copy of an older press release that provides more details on the process.