FEMA's 50% damage rule leaves some locals worried

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Hurricane Michael may have washed away many things for some, but for others, it left behind a new set of problems.

FEMA's 50% damage rule is leaving some with a pricey decision about what to do with their homes. (WJHG/WECP)

Panama City resident Ryan Norris said, "It has been truly mentally exhausting."

He is one of the many people in the area that is faced with what's called the 50% damage rule.

Trey Hutt, President of Hutt Insurance Agency, said, "The 50% damage rule requires that if your home is more than 50% damaged, in other words, more than half of the value is gone after the storm, that you have to comply with all current building codes and in some cases that involves elevating your home."

During Hurricane Michael, Norris' house flooded causing damage that exceeded 70% of the value of his home. Now, he's fixed the damage but is no longer compliant.

"Some insurance companies total the house out and pay you the limits and then you can afford to tear it down. Or in my case, they wanted to give me the $30,000 for the... either tear it down, and they wanted pictures of it torn down, or to raise the house, the whole foundation, porches, driveways, and everything up and that just is not financially feasible," Norris.

The national flood insurance program is issued by FEMA.

"So this is a requirement from them. We have a floodplain manager on staff that handles all this and we have an ordinance that explains all this--the substantial damage, the substantial improvements," said Ian Crelling, Director of Community Development of Bay County.

But anyone can face this issue, no matter where you live on the map.

"People talk about whether they're in a flood zone or out of a flood zone. Everyone is in a flood zone, it's a matter of which one and the ones that are the least hazardous are actually where we have the most common flooding," said Hutt.

"Again, the insurance companies say that they don't really know what to do and they're trying to figure it out, you know. Some insurance companies have taken care of the insured, some have not," said Norris.

For now, he has no answers to this expensive problem and the fate of his home remain uncertain.

Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.