Need a new roof? State agencies suspend certain rules to hasten post-Irma recovery

Some construction permit requirements and other state regulations are put on hold as Floridians repair and rebuild

Sep.September 19, 2017 08:45 AM

Hurricane Irma damages home in Sugarloaf Key (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Gov. Rick Scott authorized state agencies to suspend certain construction permit requirements and other regulations to quicken repairs at property damaged last week by Hurricane Irma.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued an emergency order to “suspend certain regulations and fees that may prevent, hinder or delay” recovery from Irma, including roof repairs and installations.

“I think that’s a great move. It has been done in the past” after major hurricanes, said Peter Dyga, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Florida East Coast Chapter. “It obviously will provide a little relief on the pressure that’s going to be there for the No. 1 repair, the most important thing: roofs.”

In its emergency order, DBPR cited the governor’s authorization of each state agency to suspend regulations “if strict compliance … would in any way” slow the post-storm recovery.

Similarly, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued its own emergency order to allow a variety of storm-damage repairs without obtaining prior permits.

Howard E. Nelson, a Miami-based partner of law firm Bilzin Sumberg, said the DEP order applies to many types of property repairs by individuals, businesses and governmental entities.

For example, “if you’ve got a storage tank, and you want to make repairs to the tank, you don’t have to wait for a permit,” Nelson said. DEP may require a field authorization for such work, “but they’ve got an expedited process for a field authorization.”

Emergency debris-collection sites may require field authorizations, but they “don’t need to be permitted like a normal solid waste facility,” Nelson said. “Normally, that would require a solid waste management permit, and that would take six to nine months to get.”

However, the emergency DEP order is set to expire October 4, and it may not apply to all 67 counties in Florida.

Miami-Dade County and several other Florida counties have local permitting authority independent of state authority. “Miami-Dade doesn’t believe it’s covered by this emergency [DEP] order,” Nelson said. “Miami-Dade’s wetland permitting and dock permitting aren’t a delegated state program. They’ve got their own independent, code-based provisions.”

However, Broward County to the north has “more of a delegated state program than Miami-Dade,” he said.

Just one week after Hurricane Irma’s rampage through Florida, storm-related insurance claims filed already reach an estimated $2 billion in losses, according to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation.

Overall, Hurricane Irma may have caused up to $40 billion worth of insured industry losses in the United States, according to an estimate from catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide.

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