NFIP Minimum Requirements for Building & Development and Flood Insurance

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The FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) presents flood risk as that risk was defined in the community's Flood Insurance Study (FIS). In the NFIP, "community" means an area that falls under an authority that regulates development such as a parish, city, town or village government. Since they are separate NFIP communities, cities, towns and villages may have different permitting requirements and standards, and these may be different from the requirements of the parish, which governs the unincorporated areas of the parish.

When a community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), property owners in the community are able to purchase flood insurance policies for buildings and contents. Renters are able to purchase flood insurance only for their personal property (contents coverage).

The local government's role in making sure flood insurance remains available in the community is to regulate development so new or substantially improved buildings will be protected from damage during a future base flood. The base flood has a one-percent (1 in a hundred) chance of being equaled or exceeded in any year. It often is referred to as "the 100-year flood". The water surface elevation of the base flood is the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). Land that would be covered by flood water during the base flood is in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). The SFHA includes all the flood zones that begin with the letter A or the letter V. The minimum NFIP requirement is for protection of the buildings and certain service infrastructure (e.g. the sewer system) in the SFHA (A and V flood zones) from being damaged in a future base flood. In most cases this means structures are built so the lowest floor is at or above BFE.

The table below (left column) lists the minimum Federal requirements for protecting buildings in the SFHA (A and V zones). These Federal minimums do not apply to property that is outside the SFHA unless the community has chosen to enforce higher regulatory standards that provide greater flood protection for the community. Examples of higher standards used in some Louisiana communities are shown in the right column.

When a community has provided notes to the LSU AgCenter about their higher regulatory standards we show those notes in the Building and Development section of the What Does this Mean summary.

Building and Development

Minimum Requirements for Development in the SFHA Higher Regulatory Standards used in some Louisiana communities
All development in the SFHA requires a permit."Development" includes building, stock-piling and contouring the land. Buildings outside the SFHA are regulated to protect them from flood damage. Flood zones NOT in the SFHA are X (C on older FIRMs), X-protected by levee, 0.2% annual change (B on older FIRMs), and D.
New residential buildings in the SFHA must have their lowest floor at or above the BFE.
Freeboard: Lowest floor must be higher than BFE. Common values are 12 or 18 inches higher than BFE.

The Louisiana Residential Building Code, which is based on the 2012 International Residential Building Code, sets some requirements for building in the SFHA that exceed the federal minimums. 
See IRC Chapter 3 Section R322
Non-residential buildings in the SFHA can meet the flood protection requirement by dry-floodproofing (sealing the building to keep floodwater out) instead of elevating to the BFE.
FEMA P-936 Floodproofing Non-Residential Buildings (2013) provides guidance.
Agriculture buildings (for example grain bins and barns) can obtain a variance to allow them to build with the lowest floor below BFE if they wet floodproof the structure. While this is not considered an ordinance violation, the building will not get credit for the wet floodproofing when purchasing flood insurance from the NFIP.
Technical Bulletin 7-93, Wet Floodproofing Requirements provides guidance.
Buildings in A zones may achieve the elevation requirement by being supported on compacted fill (mound of dirt).

Buildings in V zones may not be supported on fill. Their foundations must be free of obstructions of flowing water.
Compensatory Storage : The community requires that flood storage capacity removed placing fill material in the SFHA must be compensated by creating storage capacity elsewhere in the SFHA.

Limited Fill in the SFHA: The community restricts the amount of fill that can be placed under a structure. For example, fill may limited to two feet deep and be used only under the building footprint.
Substantially damaged buildings in the SFHA must be elevated so the lowest floor is at or above BFE before they can be repaired. Substantial Damage means the cost to restore the building to its pre-damaged condition is 50% or more of the market value of the building prior to being damaged. This rule applies regardless of the cause of the damage (flood, tornado, house fire). Lower Substantial Damage Threshold : The elevation requirement is triggered when the cost to restore is less than 50% of the pre-damage market value. Values of 25% to 40% have been used in Louisiana.

Cumulative Substantial Damage: The community enforces the substantial damage rule when the substantial damage threshold is crossed in the second or third event. For example, damage in the first event is 35%, and 25% in a second event.  The sum is greater than 50%, so the second event triggers the rule.
Buildings being substantially remodeled, renovated or improved in the SFHA must be elevated so the lowest floor is at or above BFE. For lateral additions in the A zones, only the addition must meet the elevation requirement. In V zones, the entire structure must be elevated. As with substantial damage, the threshold for "substantial" is 50% of the market value before improvements are made. Lower Substantial Improvement Threshold: The elevation requirement is triggered when the cost to restore is less than 50% of the pre-damage market value.

Cumulative Substantial Improvement
: The community enforces the elevation requirement when the substantial damage threshold is crossed in a second or third improvement. For example, the initial remodel is valued at 35% of the market value, and the owner obtains a permit to undertake another improvement valued at 25% of the market value. The second improvement pushes the improvements cost across the 50% threshold and triggers the rule.
Buildings in the SFHA must be anchored to resist floatation.

Flood Insurance

Flood Insurance Requirements for Buildings in the SFHA Notes on Flood Insurance Requirements
Federal regulations require lenders to ensure that a flood insurance policy is in place to protect any building in the SFHA that is used to secure a loan in which the Federal government has an interest (either in the loan or in the lending institution). The requirement for flood insurance is not Federally mandated for buildings NOT in the SFHA. However, a lender may require such insurance as a condition of making a new loan.
If the borrower does not obtain flood insurance for the building in the SFHA, the lender may force-place the insurance policy and pass the cost to the borrower. The lender is not allowed to force-place flood insurance for buildings NOT in the SFHA on the Effective FIRM.
The lender is not allowed to force-place flood insurance for buildings that are shown as being in the SFHA on a Preliminary or Future FIRM if they are not in the SFHA on the Effective FIRM.

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