Here's information YOU need to know about the "50% Rule"


50Rule.pngFEMA's Substantial Improvement/Damage
Find an Elevation CertificateResidential FEMA Calculation Valuation Table


If your home or business is below the 1% annual chance base flood elevation (aka BFE), Unincorporated Lee County has flood damage prevention regulations that may affect how you remodel, renovate, or add on to your building.

If a building is "substantially damaged" or "substantially improved," it must be brought into compliance with Unincorporated Lee County’s flood damage prevention regulations, including elevating the building to or above the to or above the 1% annual chance flood elevation.

This often comes into play during the remodeling of older structures which were built before 1984 (when Flood Insurance Rate Maps were adopted and became effective) or for structures built to compliance at the time of construction to now outdated maps.

SUBSTANTIAL DAMAGE means damage of any origin sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before damage condition would equal or exceed 50% of the market value. (Note: The cost of the repairs must include all costs necessary to fully repair the structure to its “before damage” condition.)

SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT means any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure before the "start of construction" of the improvement.

The National Flood Insurance Program requires that any structure located in the Special Flood Hazard area (flood zones beginning with A and V) where the cost of proposed improvements or repairs equals or exceeds 50% of the value of the structure, must be brought into full compliance with current Flood Insurance Rate Map Requirements.

These laws are required by the National Flood Insurance Program to protect lives and investment from future flood damages. Our community must enforce these laws in order for federally-backed flood insurance to be made available to Unincorporated Lee County residents and property owners.  Unincorporated Lee County, following the National Flood Insurance Program requirements, has the responsibility to determine "substantial damage" and "substantial improvement," and has implemented the procedures to do so.

In addition, Lee County requires that the calculation for the value of the improvements or repairs must include all permits obtained in the past five (5) years.

Historic structures may be exempt from these requirements if the compliance would threaten the structure’s continued eligibility for historic designation.

Unincorporated Lee County will use the assessed value of your structure (excluding the land) recorded by the Property Appraiser’s Office. If you disagree with the Property Appraiser’s Valuation of the structure, you may engage a State of Florida licensed property appraiser to submit a comparable property appraisal for the total market value of the structure.

You must obtain and submit to us a detailed and complete cost estimate for the addition, remodeling, reconstruction or repair of all damages sustained by your home, prepared and signed by a licensed general contractor. The contractor must sign an affidavit indicating that the cost estimate submitted includes all damages or all improvements to your home, not just structural. The signed contract document must be submitted. If the owner is the contractor, the owner is responsible for submitting the cost estimate and providing documentation, including subcontractor bids, to document the cost estimate.

We will evaluate the cost of improvements or repairs and determine if they are fair and reasonable. For damage repairs, pre-storm prices and rates will be utilized. The cost of improvements or repairs does not include items not considered a permanent part of the structure (i.e., plans, surveys, permits, sidewalks, pools, screens, sheds, gazebos, fences, etc.).

If your home is determined to have a “substantial damage” or is proposed to be "substantially improved,” then an elevation certificate must be submitted to us to determine the lowest floor elevation. Garages and carports are not considered to be the “lowest floor.”

If the lowest floor is below the 100-year flood elevation, the building must be elevated to, or above, that level. Likewise, all electrical and mechanical equipment (heating and cooling, etc.), bathrooms, and laundry rooms must be elevated to, or above, the 100-year floor level. Only parking, building access, and limited, incidental storage is allowed below the flood level. Non-residential buildings may be “flood proofed” instead of being elevated.

If the lowest floor of the structure, including electrical and mechanical equipment and bathroom are already above the 100-year flood elevation, the building can be repaired and reconstructed without having to comply with the 50% Rule.

Building plans must be prepared to show how the building is to be elevated. If located in a V-zone, Coastal High Hazard Area, or if the building is to be flood proofed, these plans must be prepared and certified by a registered professional engineer or architect.  Certificates for this purpose are available from the Building and Zoning Department.

Donated or Discounted Materials

The value placed on materials should be equal to the actual or estimated cost of all materials to be used. Where materials or servicing equipment are donated or discounted below normal market values, the value should be adjusted to an amount equivalent to that estimated through normal market transaction.

Self or Volunteer Labor

The value placed on labor should be equal to the actual or estimated labor charge for repairs of all damages sustained by the structure. Where non-reimbursed (volunteer) labor is involved, the value of the labor should be estimated based on applicable minimum hourly wage scales for the type of construction work to be completed. The local permitting official based on his/her professional judgment and knowledge of local/regional wages scales can provide additional guidance to determine reasonable labor rates for professional trades (i.e. electricians, plumbers, block masons, framing, HVAC).

Will your proposed improvements or repairs trigger the substantial improvement/substantial damage regulation (aka 50% Rule)?  Refer to the links above to find out or call 239-533-8597.

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