Impacted homes with more than 50% damage (home value only) must rebuild, and in some areas, one owner may just make repairs while a next-door neighbor must rebuild.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) –Between the flooding and the cleanup, Hurricane Idalia survivors have faced many hurdles. Now, a federal regulation, FEMA’s so-called “50% rule,” might cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars, 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi found out.
It’s something that’s catching some storm victims off guard.
When Idalia hit Tampa Bay, some yards turned into rivers. Inside one home in Crystal River, Chris Howson found his couch submerged. In other rooms, the water was halfway up the wall.
First, Chris and his family had to clean up this mess. Now, he is waiting to find out if the rule will force him to tear down his home.
“We really don’t want to rebuild,” he said. “Our neighbors just built that house across the street.”
“So probably about $500,000 dollars just for the structure itself,” Chris estimated.
FEMA’s 50% rule is a complex regulation that can cost homeowners a small fortune. Essentially, if you’re in a flood zone and you have substantial damage, you might not be allowed to just do simple repairs. You may be forced to tear down your home, and completely rebuild at a higher elevation.
Your local building officials will be the one to give you the bad news.
FEMA’s rule is triggered when the cost of repairs exceeds 50% of a home’s market value, insurance attorney David Murray explained. “When you have over 50% damage to your structure, you’re going to have to improve it,” Murray said. “They’re going to make you bring that house up to current building code. You have to bring the electrical up to code, you have to bring the plumbing up to code,” he added.
Of course, some storm victims can’t afford to completely rebuild. Murray outlined two ways they can challenge the rule.
“You can either appeal the tax appraiser’s office determination of the market value, which is listed on the property appraiser’s site as your building value, or you can go get your own appraisal.”
When Mahsa asked how easy it was for homeowners to challenge the rule, Murray said they “can be very successful.”
So, if you want to find out if this applies to you, go to your local property appraiser’s website and find your home’s market value and divide that by two. As per federal regulations, the total cost of repairs cannot exceed this number.
Federal officials say they want people in vulnerable areas to upgrade their homes because when they don’t, they get flooded over and over again. Then, the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP has to make a payment and all taxpayers are on the hook.
“If we continue to allow people to just maintain homes in their current state and not fortify their homes, improve them, then the flood damage will continue happening time and time again,” said Murray.
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