Substantial Damage and Substantial Improvement

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Pinellas County have flood damage prevention regulations that may affect how you remodel, renovate or add on to your building in order to better protect lives and investment from future flood damages.

Pinellas County requires a permit for any new building, addition, remodeling, demolition or work in excess of $500 or that would require an inspection.

Your home or business must be brought into compliance with the Pinellas County Floodplain Management Ordinance and Florida Building Code if it is:

  • Located in a mapped flood hazard area.
  • Not built to the current design flood elevation.
  • “Substantially damaged” or “substantially improved.” (See definitions below.)

Usually, this applies to the remodeling of older structures, but it also affects structures that have sustained major damage.

To become compliant, the building and all electrical and mechanical equipment must be elevated above the 100-year flood elevation. Only parking, building access and limited storage are allowed below the flood level.

Phasing of improvements, such as multiple or consecutive projects, is not permitted. The cost of all work is included in substantial improvement and substantial damage determinations.

Pinellas County determines “substantial damage” and “substantial improvement” and enforces floodplain regulations to ensure federally-backed flood insurance is made available to Unincorporated Pinellas County residents and property owners.

If you see illegal development in the floodplains, please report the issue.

Key Definitions

View full definitions in the Land Development Code.

Substantial Damage

Substantial Damage occurs when the cost of restoring the structure to the condition before the damage would equal or exceed 49% of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. [Also defined in FBC, B, section 1612.2.]

Note: The cost of the repairs must include all costs necessary to fully repair the structure to its “before damage” condition, including labor.

Substantial Improvement

Substantial Improvement means any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvement of a structure, for which the cost equals or exceeds 49% of the market value of the structure before the “start of construction” of the first improvement. [Also defined in FBC, B, section 1612.2.]

This term includes structures that have incurred “substantial damage,” regardless of the actual repair work performed. The term does not include either of the following:

  • Any project for improvement of a structure to correct existing violations of state or local health, sanitary or safety code specifications that have been identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions.
  • Any alterations of a “historic structure,” as long as the alteration does not affect the structure’s continued designation as a “historic structure.”

Market Value

Market Value means the value of buildings and structures, excluding the land and other improvements on the parcel.

The term refers to the actual cash value (like-kind replacement cost depreciated for age, wear and tear, neglect and quality of construction), determined by a qualified independent appraiser, or the “Just Value” of the structure, developed by the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Office (PAO) for Ad Valorem taxation purposes, adjusted to approximate market value, as determined by the PAO.

Additional Resources