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Remodel or Replace Your Beach House: Fort Myers Beach – 50% Rule & Substantial Improvements

The Town of Fort Myers Beach has written guidelines relating to improvements on existing structures with respect to limits which determine whether or not a structure must be raised to meet base flood elevations. The general discussion revolves around the definition of Substantial Improvement or the “50% Rule.”

This set of restrictions addresses the concerns of owners considering making improvements to existing structures or making repairs in the event of a weather incident in which structural damages occur. Simply stated, the 50 % rule is a regulation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) stating that structures that have a lowest living floor, which does not meet or exceed the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) as identified on the current Flood Insurance Rate Map may not be substantially improved. BFE within the Town of Fort Myers Beach ranges between 13–17 feet depending on the property’s location.

Fort Myers Beach 50 % Rule – Making Substantial Improvements To Your Property
Substantial Improvement is defined as any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement to a structure in which the cost equals or exceeds 50 % of the market value of the structure, prior to construction of the improvement, over a five year period. This includes structures that have incurred ” Substantial Damage ” or ” Repetitive Loss ” regardless of work performed. If a project meets the definition of ” Substantial Improvement “ or ” Substantial Damage “ it is considered new construction and the entire building must be elevated to or above the Base Flood Elevation.

Additional issues addressed in the Town of Fort Myers Beach whitepaper are summarized as follows:
1. Why is it important to know if an improvement is substantial ?
2. What types of structures must comply?
3. Will permits be issued for a ” Substantial Improvement ” ?
4. What is Market Value ?
5. Can replacement cost be substituted for market value ?
6. Which projects are exempted from the 50 % rule ?
7 Do maintenance projects count ?
8. Can I enclose the area under my home and make it habitable ?
9. Is Substantial Improvement cumulative ?
10. How is the value of an improvement determined ?
11. Is the cost of an improvement reduced by owner labor or materials donation ?
12. Are there any items excluded from the cost of improvement ?
13. How do I determine the BFE of my property ?
14. What are the flood zones within The town of Fort Myers Beach ?
15. How do I determine the lowest elevation floor of my home ?
16. Is flood insurance required ?
17. Why should owners be penalized for upgrading a structure ?
18. What if The Town of Fort Myers Beach did not participate in the NFIP ?

Additional information on the National Flood Insurance Program ( NFIP ) can be found by visiting:
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