At the end of 2014 Hillsborough County (at the request of Citizens Insurance) forwarded a request for clarification to the State of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management and FEMA. They asked whether grouting performed in conjunction with sinkhole repairs to buildings within special flood hazard areas (aka flood zones) would be counted toward FEMA’s Substantial Improvement / Substantial Damage rule (also known as the 50% rule). The answer came back a few weeks ago as, Yes.
Historically, sinkhole remediation costs were split. Costs associated with underpinning of structures were counted but costs associated with subsurface remediation (i.e. deep and shallow grouting) were not. FEMA’s previous rational was that since the grout did not touch the structure it was not counted toward the 50% rule. However, in light of the most recent request for clarification, subsurface remediation is now perceived as “site preparation related to the improvement or repair.”
The recent request for clarification asked two basic questions. The first question asked whether the repair of damage due to sinkhole was included since sinkholes are not listed by FEMA.
Question 1. Is Damage to a home as a result of sinkhole activity considered to be damage that would count towards the need for substantial repair?
Answer 1. Yes, damage to a home as a result of sinkhole activity is considered when determining whether the home has been Substantially Damaged. The definition of Substantial Damage includes "damage of any origin sustained by a structure." FEMA P-758 Section 5.6.4 describes several possible causes of damage.
Because the definition for Substantial Damage does not include a definitive list of causes of damage, the list included in FEMA P-758 is not intended to exclude other causes of damage, whether associated with a specific event or incurred over time. Therefore, the costs to repair the sinkhole damage must be included in the Substantial Damage determination.
The second question asked dealt with whether grouting was considered to be site preparation and whether it would count toward the 50% rule.
Question 2. After a building in an SFHA [Special Flood Hazard Area] is affected by sinkhole activity, are the costs for subsurface compaction grouting considered to be site preparation related to the repair and must those costs be included in the substantial damage determination?
Answer 2. Yes, all costs to repair damage that is directly associated with the building must be included in the Substantial Improvement / Substantial Damage determination. The list provided in FEMA P-758 Section 4.4.1 is not intended to be exhaustive, but characterizes the types of costs that must be included. The list includes site preparation related to the improvement or repair, which must be included in the cost. This would include foundation excavation and subsurface soil compaction grouting necessary to support the building. The cost of site preparation unrelated to the building, such as landscaping and Irrigation, may be excluded.
Given the potential impact of this clarification, the Floodplain Manager for the State Florida, Mr. Steve Martin, CFM, stated that Florida’s Division of Emergency Management plans to post information on its website sometime in August of this year. A copy of Mr. Martin’s letter can be found at: Sinkhole Damage in Special Flood Hazard Areas,
In the interim, Florida’s State Floodplain Management Office is available to provide guidance at: email@example.com.
If you would like more information on how this will impact restoration or sinkhole remediation, please contact William Bracken at: firstname.lastname@example.org .