As Hurricane Irma survivors in Monroe County continue rebuilding their lives, property owners will face many challenges.
The county is focused on public safety as its foremost mission. Recovery and rebuilding the community will focus on making homes and businesses more resilient. Newer structures built to current code and elevated were far less damaged by Hurricane Irma.
County Inspection teams are currently accessing properties that have “substantial damage,” as defined by the National Flood Insurance Program.
It’s common to think substantial damage merely describes a structure that has sustained a large amount of damage by a flood or other disaster.
In reality, “substantial damage” applies to a damaged structure in a Special Flood Hazard Area – or floodplain – for which the total cost of repairs is 50 percent or more of the structure’s adjusted market value before the disaster occurred, regardless of the cause of damage.
“Market value” means the county property appraiser’s value of the structure plus 20 percent. If you disagree with the property appraiser’s value, you may submit a uniform appraisal report for determination of market value. Land value is excluded from the determination.
For example, if a structure’s adjusted market value before the damage was $200,000 and repairs are estimated to cost $120,000, that structure is “substantially damaged.”
It’s important to know the percentage of structural damage because that information helps property owners decide whether to repair or replace a damaged dwelling, and whether additional work will be needed to comply with local codes and ordinances, such as elevating a house in a floodplain.
Your community building official or floodplain manager will make the decision regarding whether a structure is substantially damaged. If your structure is substantially damaged, you will receive a letter from the county.
If you disagree with a decision about substantial damage, you may submit a complete cost estimate for the repair of all damages sustained by your home that is prepared and signed by a licensed general contractor. Your contractor will be required to sign an affidavit indicating the cost estimate submitted includes all damages to your home, not just structural.
All communities in Monroe County participate in the National Flood Insurance Program and are required to have floodplain regulations and make substantial damage determinations. Flood Damage Prevention Ordinances must be in place for residents of a community to purchase subsidized flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.
To calculate substantial damage, local officials may make a visual inspection of a house, taking notes of the impacts to the structure itself and, when possible, to the interior. These notes, coupled with other information such as property valuations and estimated costs to repair, are used to calculate the percentage of flood damage to the structure.
With the vast impacts of Hurricane Irma, Local officials, FEMA staff, State Floodplain Management Staff and FEMA contractors will begin making inspections in the Keys shortly and will continue visual inspections throughout the coming weeks and months.
Once a determination on the percentage of damage is made, local officials share that information with property owners.
If a building in a floodplain is determined by the local official to be substantially damaged, it must be brought into compliance with local floodplain management regulations, current building codes and land development regulations.
Owners who decide to rebuild may need to elevate their structures, or change them in some other way to comply with those local floodplain regulations to avoid future flood losses.
Owners of nonresidential structures may need to flood-proof their buildings.
ALL property owners should check with local building officials to determine if permits for repair are required before beginning work.
County Building Official Rick Griffin has exempted permit requirements until Nov. 11, 2017, for work that would eliminate imminent danger to life or to prevent further property damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Examples include:
• roof repair of 300 square foot or less;
• temporary roof repairs with plywood or plastic sheeting to make structures habitable,
• covering exterior walls or windows with plywood or plastic sheeting,
• repairs to interior ceilings to make building habitable or to drain accumulated flood waters,
• repairs to steps and railings (remounting or replacing requires a permit),
• replacing window panes only,
• temporary stabilization measures to avoid collapse (permit and inspection required if occupied),
• demolition/removal of drywall, cabinets/vanities, heating/cooling systems, electrical systems, floor coverings in flooded structures, screened enclosures,
• demolition of storm damaged accessory structures or docks, seawalls, and lifts. No additional work can be done to docks, seawalls, and lifts beyond demolition without a permit.
On Sept. 25, 2017, the Monroe County Building Department started accepting permit applications (exempted from permitting fees for a limited time) for:
1. Commercial & Residential Roofing
2. Reconnect/Safety Electrical
5. Electric/Sewer Tie in
6. Plumbing/Sewer Tie in
7. AC Replacements within the same footprint and above base flood elevation
8. Commercial & Residential Component New/Replace
10. LP Gas
11. Temporary RV/Emergency Housing
12. Temporary Use/Structure/Tents
13. Gas/Fuel Tanks (Above Ground/In Ground)
14. Foundation & Piling
15. Commercial & Residential Remodel/Repair Exterior/Interior
16. Generator Auxiliary/Building
18. Demolition of others items outside of the items exempt from permitting
Depending on local codes and ordinances, there can be serious consequences for not complying with the permitting process.
Property owners who have a flood insurance policy and a substantially damaged building in a Special Flood Hazard Area may be able to use additional funds from their flood insurance policy (up to $30,000) to help defray the costs of elevating, relocating or demolishing a structure. For more information on this provision – also known as Increased Cost of Compliance – contact your insurance agent.
National Flood Insurance Program policyholders who have questions about their flood insurance policy or the claims process and disaster survivors who have general questions about the National Flood Insurance Program, can contact the support hotline by calling 1-(800)-621-3362.
For more information on general flood insurance questions, contact your local floodplain administrator, the National Flood Insurance Program (800-427-4661) or your local insurance agent. If you use TTY, you can call the National Flood Insurance Program at 800-427-5593. You can also email FloodSmart@dhs.gov to request information in a language other than English. Information also is available at www.fema.gov and www.floodsmart.gov.