In January, the City of Houston began to send out Substantial Damage Letters to City of Houston residents living in the 100-year flood plain or floodway. Residents that do not live in the 100-year flood plain or floodway should not receive Substantial Damage Letters.
What is Substantial Damage? Substantial Damage means that the cost of restoring property to its pre- damage condition equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure. For example, if the total cost to repair a home is $60,000 and the home is worth $100,000, the home is 60% damaged, making it substantially damaged.
I am more than sensitive to the devastation that this letter can bring to homeowners, but rest assured homeowner’s do have options. There is no reason to stop your renovations or feel that you are trapped.
If the city determines a home to be substantially damaged, the homeowner has the following options to obtain a flood damage repair permit:
1. Appeal the Substantial Damage Determination
Complete and submit the city’s Appeal of Substantial Damage Determination Appeal Form at https://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/notices/flood-damage- repair.html along with the required documentation demonstrating that your home or building is not substantially damaged (insurance proof of loss or personal proof of loss). This form and the required documentation can be submitted via email firstname.lastname@example.org, US Mail or in person at the city’s Floodplain Management Office (FMO). FMO will respond in writing. If a homeowner disagrees with FMO’s response to their appeal they can take their appeal to the City’s General Appeal Board.
2. Show the flood damaged home is already in compliance by submitting an Elevation Certificate
To be compliant a home must meet the elevation requirements (lowest living floor must be 12 inches above Base Flood Elevation (BFE) in the 100-year floodplain, lowest horizontal member must be 18 inches above BFE in the floodway) and performance standards described in Chapter 19. For most structures, this will require submittal of an Elevation Certificate, based on the current surveying standards.
3. Bring the flood damaged home into compliance
This is the option that people fixate on but after speaking with representatives at the Flood Plain Management office our office has found this to be very rare.
Should a homeowner choose to elevate their home it must be elevated to meet elevation requirements (lowest living floor must be 12 inches above Base Flood Elevation (BFE) in the 100-year floodplain, lowest horizontal member must be 18 inches above BFE in the floodway) and performance standards described in Chapter 19. Performance standards include, but are not limited to, flood resistant materials, flood-protected utilities and adequate flood openings.
The District E Staff has assisted several residents, answering questions they have regarding their substantial damage letters as well as helping those obtain verification of substantial damage in the case they have not yet received a letter, but suspect they might. If you think your home is substantially damaged but have not received a letter, please email email@example.com and the office can assist you with requesting verification. You can also email the District E office if you would like assistance with the appeals process.
We understand that these letters are extremely discouraging but want to make sure residents are aware of the resources needed to appeal and carry-on with rebuilding. If you have any questions or would like more information, my office would be happy to provide you with a Substantial Damage Info Sheet and assist you with answering any questions you may have regarding the process. You may contact the District E office by calling 832-393- 3008 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The District E office is always a resource to residents and we will all get through this together, stay Houston strong!” Councilman Martin said.