Are You on FEMA’s Naughty List?

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On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian damaged or destroyed nearly every structure on Fort Myers Beach. In the months that followed, many of you entered the painful process of getting permits to repair your property. Some of you didn’t. Those of you who didn’t are about to feel some additional pain.

According to a FEMA audit of all Fort Myers Beach structures, about 106 properties were repaired without a permit, or, without properly calculating FEMA’s 50% rule. FEMA’s 50% rule prohibits repairs and improvements on damaged homes exceeding 50% of their market value unless the entire residential structure is brought up to the most current floodplain management regulations. The list includes residential homes and condo buildings.

For months Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers warned residents not to make repairs without permits and said repeatedly on Mondays With The Mayor that anyone who did work without a permit would wind up paying the price down the road.

We are now down that road.

This all has to do with FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and those that are on FEMA’s naughty list could impact what every property owner on Fort Myers Beach pays for flood insurance if they do not come into compliance. When it comes to the National Flood Insurance Program, FEMA sets rates based on risk. With over 100 properties now possibly out of compliance, FEMA could determine Fort Myers Beach is now at a higher risk, lowering the beach’s rating, and costing everyone more in flood insurance.

The FEMA list given to the town includes property addresses “identified by FEMA as possible violations to the local floodplain management laws and regulations.” If you were wondering what the addresses were, you can forget about finding out. We tried to get the list. The property addresses are protected by the Federal Privacy Act of 1974 and the town could get in some serious trouble if they share it with any third party.

This all adds a new layer of work onto an already overworked town staff. It’s the town’s responsibility now to fix the 106 alleged problem properties. Even if the town was wrong in issuing a permit, causing a property to fall out of compliance, it falls on the town to fix it. Communities have a responsibility to enforce all adopted floodplain development regulations in their local floodplain ordinance.

So what happens if you’re on the list? What if you did work without a permit or you did work that FEMA calculates was inaccurate when it comes to their 50% rule? If a property is determined to be substantially damaged or improved, the town needs to let the property owner know that the structure would now need to come into compliance with floodplain regulations. Coming into compliance could mean elevation or demolition of the structure. If a property is in violation, the town needs to exhaust all measures to bring a property into compliance with floodplain management regulations. This would be going through the entire code process up to imposing liens on the property. If the property owner continues to choose not to comply, the town would then turn to FEMA for guidance in issuing a declaration under Section 1316 of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 which denies flood insurance coverage for any property which is found to be in violation of state or local floodplain management regulations.

Town Manager Andy Hyatt says invoking Section 1316 is a last resort to compel property owners after other measures to gain compliance have failed and the declaration may be rescinded once the structure is brought into compliance.

 

34 COMMENTS

  1. 1. If you did not have insurance before Ian and still do not.
    2. If you have started rebuilding without any permits period.
    3. Your power was turned on by FPL without electrical contractor inspection on record before elections for council were completed.
    5. You financially have no way to be self insured now or before Ian.

    Sell your property you cannot financially afford to live on a barrier island of any coastal area. Folks it’s that simple. The hardship this brings to some is because of their own devices. Not to mention just property value declines we will all suffer but these homes without electrical permitting will likely start fires. Than we can feel bad about loss of life. The damage from heat to neighboring houses. Tear them down or force code compliance until they sell.

  2. When will non repairs of commercial property be addressed that does not have for sale sign posted. When are all the commercial food trailers being removed and buildings being erected? Are permits even applied for? If the owner of trailer does not own the land this many months later it is just a new commercial lease until a stop has been put to it.

  3. I smell numerous law suits against the town for issuing permits and relaying a false narrative of security’s for the repair homes. I have a neighbor that had all their permitting approved and passed by code enforcement and now the town tells them they have no record of approval. I witnessed code enforcement sign off on some of the permits and remember the name of the temporary employee the town hired. Their house will not come down without a fight.

  4. My street has some, let’s say “undesirable homes” that I don’t see how they made it thru the 50% rule. Definitely should be tear downs! Not sure how they are still standing, but they are. Haven’t been touched in over a year but now are getting worked on (new flooring and a few windows so far). I see no permits posted.
    If they did not get FEMA assistance, are these homes still held to 50% rule and FEMA rules and must build up? If so, these homes should be torn down, NOT COSMETICALLY ALTERED!

  5. FEMA made it a point to go house to house right after the storm and take numerous photos of every property and it’s condition along with taking notes of each property. They have those notes and photos to compare to the current condition of the property then could pull up the permits to see what’s been permitted. Amazing their efficiency at doing this process compared to processing homeowners claims for assistance. If you took FEMA assistance, they own you now including future owners of your lot/parcel/home. They require owners of the now vacant lots to carry flood insurance and the flood insurance requirement sticks with the property for the life of the property, including if it’s sold to new owners 😛

    • True, but to be clear….. It is my understanding that while FEMA may require a parcel to have flood insurance, that does not mean the home/property owner must carry said insurance. It means that if they do not carry flood ins. PHEMA will not assist them in the future. Please correct me if I am wrong, but that is how I read the letter from FEMA.

    • FEMA did come around day 10 after the storm. I talked to a local guy I told him I improved my roof. The house is sustainable he’s like oh that’s good to know. Yes FEMA is marking homes. For teardown.

  6. If you own your home can you just accept the 1316 and go about your life without flood insurance? I am sure some people needed a place to live like their own home, for lack of rent money or whatever, and from what I read about the FEMA trailer debacle, they were left with no choices but to repair and live where they do. If you knew your home was over 50% but you own it and have no funds for permitted, hoops or upgrades, you do what you have to. People had wrecked homes, and possibly no job. Struggling to get insurance money that is never enough to cover what it needs to. I don’t blame them at all. Yeah could be some rich guys vacation home and he doesn’t need anything, but he likely cares even less about FEMA.

    • If the home is owned outright with no loans then it’s not required to have flood insurance. The problem would be when these people decide to sell then the new owner would have to pay cash for it and would not be able to get a flood policy on the property if they wanted to.

      • What legal standing does fema have to deny a new owner insurance? How many properties have already changed hands (post Ian) not previously carrying flood insurance?

  7. How does FEMA know if you went over 50% rule with your repairs? I could never figure that out..does anyone know that answer if do please advise

    • Is it based on the ” assessed value” of the home, not the land value 50% of that has to be approved by the government/FMB permit to rebuild; so if you only have 125k to rebuild ( assessed value) and your permitting says the cost will be 170K; the government makes you take your house down. Building without a Permit blessed by the government will screw you eventually

      • Darren, you are right, of course. But for what it’s worth, remember that you do not have to rebuild EXACTLY how it was IN WHOLE. A person could get permits and rebuild enough to be livable this year, and then next year get permitted again to do additional work. Our governor allowed the rules to be changed so you can increase the value of your home every year.

        • fortunately, i got a local contractor that I’ve worked with prior years before he took me on ; got me under my 50% rule ; half the pay for a view of the bay. You need to pay a contractor who understands the government laws ; it’s just a number game but you need to pay Contractor who knows how to fudge those numbers and make it work. No Shane my game.

  8. Invoke Section 1316 to those properties. Keep the ones in compliance out of the pool. Put the aspirin bottle back on the shelf. Move on.

  9. We had to sign an affidavit to the government stating our compliance with the 50% rule to rebuild. FEMA, I guess everyone in the USA pays FEMA in their taxes….somewhere we all pay it; hence we are a liability to everyone else; it is BS because the entire program that Lee County agrees only to pay 2,000k ( entry-level FEMA flood insurance) you needs full flood insurance to get 250,000k for flood insurance and it not subsidized the government only the BS type that pays nothing in flood

  10. FEMA/federal government/ Insurance Companies all are Nothing but a scam! Never give up, stand your ground with these Crooks!!
    SHAME on our government!!

  11. Why is FEMA coming down so hard when they won’t pay legitimate insurance claims for people who paid years of inflated premiums ? Seems like nothing but a government money grab. For many, this is the homeowner’s only option.

    • Days 10 after the storm, FEMA kicked me out of their tent, because am NOT an FMB primary residence; they basically told me to leave rudely

  12. As mentioned in the article those owners and the town itself could pay much higher insurance if all are not in compliance. Insurance as many already know went up 66% or more and is horrible, so I agree to comply or be taken down. Maybe we will see more people protesting on top of their garages.

  13. Paul is 100% correct in that there are very likely WAY more than 106 50%-Rule offenders on the Island! And it seems very simple to ascertain who is non-compliant.

    • Yes the town should be putting stop work orders on houses. We have a floodplain manager on staff who works with code officers. Reported houses on our street have not been approached. State of Florida requires training to municipal staffs to work with and approach homeowners. Substantial work needs to be permitted on every house that is one story in the island.
      We elected these folks to oversee the town staff. If they need more staff than it should be addressed vs insurance going up for property owners. I am to referring resident property dwellings. Either it’s to code or it’s not, either way FEMA raising rates will be the failure of our local floodplains manager for the town and the ability of town manager & council supporting this positions needs.

      https:// http://www.fema.gov/floodplain-management/manage-risk/local

  14. Does this mean if your property isn’t in compliance, but you don’t have a mortgage, and you don’t want flood insurance, as the property owner, you could request a Section 1316 declaration?
    If granted, it would have long-term effects on the market value but that may be the only option for some.
    That may be an interesting first choice for the property owner.
    It can still be the last choice for the town government.
    I wonder how many Section 1316 grants can be in place before it influences the FEMA risk analysis.

      • The reason most of the homes in key west are not in compliance is because they are listed as “historical” Nothing, absolutely nothing is allowed to be changed on them. If you replace a window, door, wood etc. it has to be replaced with the exact same windows, doors etc. it is difficult at best to find these materials and expensive! Because of this they are exempt from current flood, height requirements etc.

  15. On my street of 30 or so homes there are at least 4 that didn’t pull a permit for anything. I searched permits by address and nothing on those 4 . There have to be many more than 100. I say F them. I played by the cumbersome rules, so should everyone! Send in the excavators

    • Exactly. Sorry you had zero insurance to begin with. Now you cannot rebuild legally and afford permitting. Sell your lot and buy a home that you can afford with insurance. Or save enough money to be self insured.
      Tear them down, we all suffer property value declines from people who are in over there heads financially.

  16. Wow, so FEMA’s slow or no reaction time caused owners to do something needed and now they have some time to nitpick what’s been done. Where were they when needed?? I was fortunate enough to pay off my lien so I could cancel FEMA, know that they are incompetent at best.

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