Flood Information- FAQ
- Who needs flood insurance?
You must have flood insurance to get federally secured financing to buy, construct, or improve a building in a high-risk area known as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), where more than 75 percent of all flood claims are paid. Lending institutions that are federally regulated or insured must determine if the building is in an SFHA. If it is, the lender must require flood insurance on: FHA loans, VA loans, second mortgages, home equity loans, home improvement loans, construction loans, commercial loans, farm credit loans
- What can be done about flooding problems?
Drainage system maintenance is important since debris obstructs the flow of water causing street and yard flooding. It is illegal to dump unauthorized chemical, sediment or waste materials into storm sewer systems, streams or bays in Pinellas County. For maintenance issues for residents in unincorporated Pinellas County, call (727) 464-8900, other residents need to call the city in which they live.
- Who do I call to report a problem?
- What is the difference between a flood zone and an evacuation zone?
Flood zones and evacuation zones are different. They measure different conditions that may not occur at the same time. The flood zones and evacuation zones are determined by different methods and have different purposes. A home may be located in a non-evacuation zone, yet still be located in a flood zone because of a nearby stream or pond. Residents must check both zones.
Flood zones are areas mapped by FEMA for use in the National Flood Insurance Program. Each flood zone designation, represented by a letter or letters, tells homeowners exactly what the risk is for flooding at their property over a period of years, regardless of the cause. By law, all homes in high-risk zones carrying a mortgage must be covered by flood insurance.
Evacuation zones are based on hurricane storm surge zones determined by the National Hurricane Center using ground elevation and the area’s vulnerability to storm surge from a hurricane. The evacuation zones are marked from A through E, plus non-evacuation zones.
- Where do I find out if I need to evacuate?
For more information on if you need to evacuate, go to the Emergency Management - Know Your Zone page for more information
- Will I flood out in a hurricane?
Hurricanes can bring tremendous amounts of rain and dangerous storm surge flooding from the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. While many factors about a particular hurricane (size, forward speed, point of landfall) will change the storm’s effects, it’s wise to plan as if you will be flooded out, and take all necessary precautions to save your life.
- Is it safe to drive during a flood event?
The following are important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:
- Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
- One foot of water will float many vehicles.
- Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-ups.
- Are sandbags helpful?
Sand bags are not an effective way to block or minimize water intrusion into homes or buildings. But, some homeowners feel a sense of well-being by utilizing sand bags. See more sandbag information.
- Do I have an elevation certificate on my property?
Yes, if it was built after September, 1992, when Building and Development Review Services (BDRS) joined that part of the Community Rating System (CRS). Contact BDRS at (727) 464-3471.
- How much Flood Insurance should you buy?
For federally secured financing in an Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), the law requires flood insurance in an amount equal to the outstanding principal balance of the loan, the value of the building, or the maximum coverage available, whichever is less. It also requires flood insurance to be maintained for the life of the loan.
While the law requires coverage only for the loan balance, you should consider protecting your equity. It’s wise to insure primary residences and businesses in sufficient amounts to fully protect the building and its contents.
The NFIP provides up to $250,000 coverage for single-family residential buildings and up to $100,000 coverage for contents. Other residential and commercial property owners can also obtain flood insurance.
- For more information about the NFIP and flood insurance, call
or contact your
insurance company or agent.
- For an agent referral, call
TDD (800) 427-5593
- Policy Rates
- Am I paying too much for my flood insurance?
Please call your local insurance agent or the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-888-379-9531. Further information can be found on typical policy rates on Preferred Risk Policies and on NFIP Grandfathering Rules.
- Can I get a discount?
The Community Rating System (CRS) is a program that provides communities with discounts to flood insurance rates. If you do not live in unincorporated Pinellas County, check the Community Status Book to see if your community is already an NFIP partner.
- What are the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) Zones?
Zones V, VE, A or AE are all considered to be SFHA Zones, meaning these properties have a greater than one percent chance of flooding in any given year. When viewing the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), SFHA Zones are shown as the darkest shaded areas.
- What Zones require Flood Insurance?
If you have a federally backed mortgage, flood insurance is mandated for those properties within the SFHA Zones (Zones V, VE, A, or AE). Although the purchase of flood insurance is not mandated in Zones X (unshaded areas on the FIRMs) or X (500) (lightly shaded areas FIRMs), a Lending Agency still may require it.
- Do I need flood insurance in Zones X or X (500)?
Although FEMA doesn’t mandate insurance and a mortgage company may not require it, purchasing flood insurance at a lower rate (known as “Preferred Risk” may be a wise idea. Nationwide, over 30% of reported flood claims are in an X or X (500) Zone.
- How do I get FEMA to remove my property from a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) Zone?
First check your Elevation Certificate and see if both the elevation of the lowest floor and the lowest adjacent grade (LAG) are at or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for the respective flood zone. Next check your Elevation Certificate to see if the Surveyor (PLS) used the North American Vertical Datum 1988. If the PLS used the NAVD88 and both elevations are at or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) you may then contact FEMA at 877-336-2627 and apply for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA), if fill dirt was not used when your house was built, or for a Letter of Map Revision by Fill (LOMR-F), if fill was brought in by the builder/developer.
- How do I find out if there is an existing LOMA or LOMR-F on my property?
For the Unincorporated areas of Pinellas County check the 2005 Revalidation List or the Pinellas County Building and Development Review Services at (727) 464-3471. For incorporated areas of the County please check with your city.
- Where can I find an Elevation Certificate on my structure?
If your structure was built in the Unincorporated County after September 1992 and in is a Special Flood Hazard Area Zone then the Pinellas County Building and Development Review Services (BDRS) should have a copy. For all other jurisdictions, please contact the individual municipality. If there isn’t an elevation certificate on record, then you will have to hire a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) to conduct an elevation survey.
- What is Substantial Improvement, Substantial Damage, or the “50% Rule”?
The National Flood Insurance Program and Pinellas County regulations require buildings within the Special Flood Hazard Area that are improved at a cost which is 50% or more of the existing building’s market value before the improvement is started to meet current construction standards for buildings in a floodplain. For further information, please call Pinellas County Building & Development Review Services Department at (727) 464-3888.
The value of the structure is the estimate before the "start of construction" of the improvement. This term includes structures which have incurred "substantial damage," regardless of the actual repair work performed. The term does not, however, include either:
- Any project for improvement of a structure to correct existing violations of state or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which have been identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions; or
- Any alterations of a "historic structure," provided that the alteration will not preclude the structure's continued designation as a "historic structure.
- Where do I get the value of my structure?
This is the value of the structure only, property value is not considered. The Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Office website is a good source. Use the replacement depreciation value figure and divide by two. A private appraisal company may also be used.
- How long do I need to wait between improvement permits when dealing with the 50% rule?
Currently, Pinellas County has no waiting period. However, different jurisdictions vary on this depending on their local ordinances. Please consult your respective municipality.
- Since I’m doing the work myself, do I have any labor fees to consider in the cost of construction?
Yes. Square footage construction prices issued by the International Code Council will be used to determine compliance with the FEMA 50% cost requirements. Owner-contractors must include fair labor costs into their cost breakdown calculations, even if labor fees are not involved.