BY LIZA STROUT - Do you own an elevated home? Is the ground floor enclosed? When was your house built? What is a flow vent? What does any of this have to do with flood insurance?
On February 15 at 10:30 a.m., Bob Stewart, Director of the Lee County Division of Building Services, will be at the Community Center Auditorium to explain the intricacies of FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program, and how they affect island homeowners.
Everyone is encouraged to attend.
Nat Italiano of Italiano Insurance is hosting the event, and will also be answering questions about flood zones, the changes to elevation maps that have occurred with improvements in technology, and the penalties levied by FEMA if there is a flood and an illegal enclosure is discovered.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” says Italiano. “In the last year I’ve gotten two letters from the County about enclosures, but they were both addressed to the company (Italiano Insurance) so I don’t think that individual homeowners have been getting the news. In the last four or five years I have seen the County catch four or five homeowners with illegal enclosures."
All have been required to remove any machinery or equipment (toilets, showers, cabinets and sinks) in the enclosure area and install proper venting. In the last week or two alone I have had to tell three or four homeowners who want to sell their homes that they need to tear out the improvements down below so a buyer can purchase Flood Insurance.
When a new policy is written on a house the agent that is writing it must inspect the property, photograph it, and fill out an enclosure worksheet for the flood insurance company.
Until four or five years ago if the ground floor was enclosed the companies simply increased premiums without reporting to FEMA. Now they report directly to FEMA, who reports to the county. The county sends out an inspector. If the enclosure is a properly vented unfinished area used for storage, parking, or entry, then everything is fine.
Problems occur when an enclosure is finished and has been converted to a kitchen, bathroom, or office. If the enclosure is not grandfathered in, it has to be removed.
If the county does not enforce this code, then they can be placed on probation and then suspended from the National Flood Insurance Program. If there were a hurricane, homeowners in a suspended community would not be covered for flood damage.
The only exceptions are houses built before Lee County went into the regular Flood Program and houses were not required to be elevated. This went into effect in October of 1984.
However, if you have a grandfathered enclosure (built before 1984) and do upgrades that are equal to 50% of more of the appraised value of the house, then the house has to be brought into compliance with current codes and enclosures removed.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Italiano Insurance at 941-964-0400.
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