DENHAM SPRINGS — Confusion has arisen among homeowners who are unsure about permit requirements and FEMA guidelines following the worst flood in modern history of Denham Springs, Mayor Gerard Landry said.
The uncertainty among residents stems largely from the cleanup and which level of damage requires a permit for rebuilding, along with FEMA guidelines the city may have to enforce.
The city will waive fees on all permits related to reconstruction after the flood. No permit is necessary for cleanup.
“In fact, we ask that residents clean their house as soon as they have it in order,” Landry said. “Clean it out, let it dry and take care of the mold remediation.”
Homes with less than 18 inches of water will require not permits for rehabilitation.
FEMA requires the permits on homes with 18 inches of water to help in the verification process, Landry said.
Landry estimated that 2,900 of the approximately 4,200 homes within Denham Springs city limits incurred more than 18 inches of flood water.
“FEMA will have inspectors in the field and they will go to houses to see which have more than eighteen inches and which have less,” he said.
The city will examine the structures and discuss options available to the homeowners, City Building Official Rick Foster said.
He warned against making repairs without a permit.
“By making those repairs without obtaining a permit, the owner may suffer steep financial consequences at a later date: the structure’s flood insurance premiums may increase by hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year, the owner may become ineligible for future state or federal funding or relief, or the owner may even be required to elevate the structure at their own expense,” Foster said.
The city wants to make homeowners aware of their options and understand that each situation is different, he said.
“There isn’t a ‘cookie cutter’ answer for all,” Foster said. “If the owner doesn’t apply for the permit, then we never get to have those conversations.”
Landry recommends residents keep the house open to air out and dry up to four weeks.
“By then, we should have our temporary city hall up and running and able to accommodate citizens as we should,” he said.
Homeowners should also remove all wet materials – including drywall, insulation, carpet/padding and damaged cabinets – as part of the drying process, Foster said.
“This is commonly called “gutting” the building. There is a lot of water retained in wood studs but even more in the building’s slab,” he said. “This water may take days/weeks to be fully removed from the concrete floor so the drying process is critical to effective repairs.”
The addition of a room as part of the flood recovery will require a permit.
“But the most important thing to remember is that cleaning of houses will not require a permit of any kind,” Landry said.
Residents should keep all documentation from the rehabilitation, including the permit, Landry said.
“The kicker is that I couldn’t write a permit today if I had to,” he said. “The City Hall had 52 inches of floodwater, so for right now people should do what they have to do.”
Homeowners can apply for permits at applications are available online at http://cityofdenhamsprings.com/online.shtml.