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No. The 50%-Rule applies to buildings, irrespective of ownership.
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The flood maps for Key West first became effective December 31, 1974. Buildings constructed after that date were required to be at certain minimal elevations above sea level. Existing buildings within regulated flood zones were grandfathered into the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at their current elevations. However, that grandfathered status ceases once the building has been renovated by half it’s market value. Once that threshold is reached, renovation plans must include elevating the home to current flood levels.
Actually, the first flood maps were effective circa 1970/71, back when the NFIP was administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) . When Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took over, it had great difficulty discerning records for the early years of the program. As a result, FEMA stipulated, that any community with flood maps having an effective date prior to December 21, 1974 - such as Key West - would now be governed by this 1974 date rather than the earlier map dates.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has mapped flood zones across the city based upon the ground elevation of those areas. Zones identifiers such as "AE", "AO", "VE" and "Coastal A" require that buildings within these flood zones are subject to special flood hazard building requirements. Zones identified as "X" or "Shaded-X" are mapped as being above expected flood levels, so those special building requirements don’t apply to buildings fully inside these type of flood zones. View Online Flood Maps.
It starts with the County Property Appraiser’s value for the building (just the building’s value "Market Improvement Value" not including the land value) before any work has been performed. Then 15% is added to that building value. So a building on the Property Appraiser that has a value at $100,000, would have a market value of $115,000. This is called the Adjusted Property Appraiser’s value.
Obtain a private Market Value property appraisal from a local property appraisal company, also known as an Actual Cash Value (ACV). Note: appraisals based upon Replacement Cost Values may not be used for this purpose, unless they properly account for depreciation; which most don’t.
Typically, in this locality, a private appraisal usually shows buildings at significantly higher values. With a private appraisal, the 50% threshold will be based upon the value of this building shown on the private appraisal; not the overall value of the property, just the building’s value. This is the property value minus land, site improvements and values for other buildings on the lot. On a private appraisal, the value of the building utilized is the labeled "Depreciated Cost of Improvements," which is often found on page 3 of a six-page Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. Submitting a private appraisal to the City doesn’t affect your property tax rate.
Whatever appraisal value you end up using, you’ll have to keep using that value for the next five years. Because the percent of improvement is determined by the value of the building prior to improvements, you can’t keep obtaining appraisals to include the new work you’ve done to increase the 50% threshold. Nor can you use one appraisal method at the beginning, and another later during this five-year window.
The value of improvements is based upon a total of costs of improvements made to a building within the past five years. Non-building related work for site improvements such a patios, driveways/pavers, pools/spas, irrigation, fences etc. aren’t included. For a list of costs that are included or exempt from Substantial Improvement calculations, please review the Substantial Improvement Brochure (PDF).
The cost of renovations or new construction is estimated as follows:
This rate is the same for owner-builders, volunteer labor or discounted materials, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires the City apply the value of the work, rather than any discounted actual costs. For example, if a volunteer organization offered to construct a home at no cost it would still have the same value as new construction.
In some instances, permitted work that never received final inspections may be considered within the current five-year period; unless it can be determined - to the Inspector’s satisfaction - that the work had been completed more than five years ago. If work to a building wasn’t finished during any five-year period, this five-year window is extended until final inspections have been approved. In other words, this five-year clock doesn’t reset upon uncompleted projects, simply because it took longer than five years to finish the work.
If decks are attached to a building then these costs are included. If the deck is separated from the building - by a little as a fraction of an inch - then these costs are excluded from these calculations. During flood conditions, attached decks may toque loads upon a building; yet decks that will break-away on their own when not so attached don’t stress the building.
The City will still seek to determine reasonable cost estimates for these type improvements, as opposed to applying the square-foot costs:
No. FEMA prohibits the use of floodproofing in lieu of elevation. Homeowners are free to employ floodproofing measures, but if elevation is required, floodproofing isn’t an alternative. There’s no flood insurance discount for floodproofing a home, but there’s major discounts for elevating one.
Probably. Commercial buildings may employ floodproofing in lieu of elevation as long as it’s where people work and not where they sleep. Unless the building has residential usage, such as:
Floodproofing is prohibited in VE-type flood zones and "Coastal A" Zones.
Every location within a regulated flood zone has a pre-determined flood level, known as the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). In type "A" flood zones, the height of a building is measured to Finished First Floor, usually referred to as the first habitable floor.
For example, an "AE-6" flood zone indicates when a substantial flood event occurs, minimum flood levels at this location are expected to be six feet above sea level. Current building codes require Substantially Improved buildings be elevated one-foot higher than the BFE (known as the Design Flood Elevation or DFE). Therefore, a home within an "AE-6" flood zone would need to be elevated to at least seven-feet above sea level. View Online Flood Maps for more information.
Type "VE" flood zones are located along shorelines and have more stringent construction standards. The appropriate flood level for these buildings is measured at the lowest horizontal cross-member. The underside of that cross-member must be one foot higher than the Base Flood Elevation for the specific site. Within "Coastal A" Zones, this higher standard is also required.
If you’re seeking a building permit under the Building Permit Allocation System (B-PAS), the minimum height requirement is 1.5-feet above BFE.
To know this, you’ll need an Elevation Certificate, provided by a land surveyor. That certificate will record the height of the land above sea level, and the height of a building’s first finished floor above sea level. Subtract the height of the land from required elevation of the home, and the result is how high the building must be elevated. For example, a home in an AE-6 flood zone has an Elevation Certificate showing the grade is four feet above sea level. The building must be elevated three feet (BFE plus 1 foot).
The following equation includes mathematical symbols. In the equation the subtraction symbol (-) and the equals symbol (=) will be used:
Required height (7 feet) - Grade height (4 feet) = Height of elevated first floor above grade (3 feet). Watch the video explanation of Elevation and Freeboard for help.
The standards are higher in VE and "Coastal A" flood zones, and buildings permitted under the Building Permit Allocation System (BPAS).
Unfortunately, no. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) doesn’t allow any margin of error when it comes to building elevation requirements. However, since in "A" type flood zones, a building’s height is measured at the Finished First Floor, you could build-up the floor with another layer of 1/2 inch plywood or install floor tile and the building would then measure to the required height (carpeting and rugs don’t count).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has exempted such structures from the elevation requirements related to Substantial Improvement unless anything is done to the structure that would affect its status as a contributing historic structure. Utilities and machinery are still required to be elevated to proper flood levels. However, your building won’t be exempt from very high flood insurance costs, depending upon the depth of the building below the flood level.
There’s a major difference between "Historic Structures" and "Contributing Historic Structures." Only the latter are exempt from elevation/floodproofing requirements. A "Historic Structure" may be any building older than 50 years. Whereas a "Contributing Historic Structure" is a documented building on the state list of historic structures; this list is maintained by the local Historic Architectural Review Commission (HARC) board.
Generally, structures are substantially improved in one of five ways:
As defined in Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 44 Section 59.1 of the NFIP regulations, a building is considered to be substantially damaged when: damage of any origin is sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before damaged condition would equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. Buildings can also be declared Substantially Damaged due to neglect or excessive deterioration. Such buildings can’t be renovated nor repaired without elevation.
damage of any origin is sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before damaged condition would equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.
Substantial Improvement can occur gradually during five years or less, when repairs/renovations/additions total 50% of the building’s value. Substantial Damage usually occurs during severe storm events, a fire or severe neglect/deterioration. Once so declared, a Substantially Damaged building can’t be repaired without meeting current flood damage prevention requirements (usually elevation).
All structures that are determined to be substantially damaged are automatically considered to be substantial improvements, regardless of the actual repair work performed. In other words, if the cost necessary to fully repair the structure to its before damaged condition is equal to or greater than 50% of that structure’s market value before damages, then the structure must be elevated (or floodproofed if it’s non-residential) to or above the level of the design flood elevation, and meet other applicable program requirements.
Different buildings often have different building standards that require different inspections types. Additionally, the value of improvements needs to be tracked individually by building. This better assists the Applicant as well, in that buildings can be brought online as inspected and approved, whereas lumping all buildings into a single application would tie the status of all to the final inspection of the very last piece of the overall project. If the design plans encompass multiple buildings, then only one set needs to be submitted (not duplicate sets for each application.)
Once the 50% threshold is reached - for any reason - elevation is required.
Yes, for a couple of reasons:
Yes. If the base of the building is below the flood level, all improvements to the building are included, no matter where on the building they occur.
New and Substantially Improved Mobile homes within a mobile home park need to be elevated so that the bottom of the frame reaches or exceeds the Base Flood Elevation for that site. Mobile homes placed or moved anywhere within the city must be elevated to Base Flood Elevation to the bottom of its frame. Mobile homes aren’t permitted in type "V" or "Coastal A" flood zones.
The date the project was permitted is the controlling date. When trying to determine which flood map standards would have applied when a building was constructed, look for the date the construction was approved and permitted. Compare that date against the effective dates of the flood maps in effect at that time. The most recent flood maps prior to the date of permitting apply.
Yes. While in Florida solar equipment may be exempt from increasing property taxes, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) still considers such a building improvement.
If the cost of constructing an addition is less than 50% of the main structure’s value, then only the addition needs to be elevated, (Florida Building Code (FBC) 1101.1). If the cost of the addition - along with any renovations to the main building - is more than 50%, then both the addition and the existing building require elevation. An exception is buildings that have legal additional living units, stand on their own merits. Buildings with non-residential uses have an option to floodproof, and the same scenarios apply. View more information to an exert of Florida Building Code concerning such additions (PDF).