Residential and commercial properties in Virginia Beach are commonly threatened by floodwaters due to periods of heavy rain, hurricanes or nor'easter storms. 

And just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future.​​​​​

There are many things to consider when developing in flood prone areas, including building requirements, flood insurance and steps you can take now to mitigate future flood damage. 

Developing in a Floodplain


The Virginia Beach Code of Ordinances regulates development in a floodplain. A permit is required for all construction and development (any manmade change) in areas designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). 

This includes, but is not limited to, building or other structures, the placement of manufactured homes, filling, grading, paving, excavation, storage of equipment or materials, or the subdivision of land. Contact Permits & Inspections for specific requirements.

Substantial Damage/Improvement

In accordance with the floodplain ordinance, buildings in the SFHA may be modified, altered, repaired, reconstructed, or improved subject to the following conditions:

  1. If the improvements or repairs are less than 50% of its market value, the structure must be elevated and/or flood-protected to the greatest extent possible, as determined by the Permits and Inspections Department.
  2. If the structure's improvements or repairs are 50% of its market value or greater, the changes must conform to the City's floodplain regulations, as well as the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code.

Building Elevation

All new or improved residential buildings located in a SFHA must be elevated so the lowest floor (or lowest horizontal structural member for structures located in a V zone) is above the base flood elevation indicated on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). 

This additional elevation above the base flood elevation is called freeboard. Nonresidential structures have the option of flood proofing instead of meeting the elevation requirements. The required freeboard varies depending on flood zone and location in the city.


The SFHA in the southern part of Virginia Beach has been designated as a floodplain subject to special restrictions and has additional requirements regarding the use of fill. 

Elevation Certificates

Elevation certificates are used to rate a home’s flood risk by comparing the elevation of the first floor to estimated height floodwaters will reach in a major flood. 

If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area, you should provide an elevation certificate to your insurance agent to obtain flood insurance and ensure that your premium accurately reflects your risk. It can also help you make decisions about rebuilding and mitigation after a disaster.

Flood Insurance Program

​​​The City of Virginia Beach participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is offered through FEMA for homeowners in flood prone areas. Separate policies are needed for protection against wind and flood damage and can be obtained through the agency that provides your homeowner insurance. Contact your insurance agent for information on your coverage.

The Planning Department is responsible for the administration of the program and flood insurance rate maps (FIRM) are available at 2875 Sabre St., Suite 500, as well as the FEMA Map Service Center online.

Flood Zone Determination

Planning & Community Development can provide both verbal and written flood zone determinations. Call (757) 385-4621 or submit a request online.

Reading the Flood Insurance Rate Map

Flood insurance rate maps are available through FEMA's Map Service Center and the City's online mapping service. To view your flood zone using Virginia Beach City Map do the following:

  • In the upper right search window, enter your street address, including city and state, and click on the magnifying glass icon. The map should zoom into your property.

  • Select the contents icon (middle icon on the top left-hand side) to open a list of available data.

  • Click the box next to Flood Zones – Effective Jan. 16, 2015, to activate the flood zone layer.

  • If the map doesn't have shaded color on the parcel or shows a pink hashed shading, your property is not currently in a Special Flood Hazard Area. This doesn't mean you'll never experience flooding, only that you are at a lower risk.

  • If the map shows a blue hashed shading, your property is in an AE flood zone, which is a Special Flood Hazard Area that has a 1% chance of an annual flood, or 26% during a 30-year mortgage period.

  • If the map shows a yellow hashed shading, your property is in a VE flood zone, which is a coastal area with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. It has a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30‐year mortgage. 

Flood Protection

​​​​​Tips for Homeowners to Prevent Flood Damage

  • Always check with the Planning Department before beginning any project on your property. Some flood protection measures may need a building permit and others may not be safe for your building.
  • Consider installing check valves to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Every piece of trash contributes to flooding. Don't dump or throw anything into ditches, streams, or storm drains. Even grass clippings, leaves and branches can accumulate and plug channels, which prevents them from carrying water.
  • Consider elevating your home above flood levels. There are many variables that impact the cost to elevate, including the condition of your home, type of foundation, elevations of the base flood, the ground and lowest floor of your home, and other structural elements. You may be able to elevate or protect individual components, such as your HVAC unit, ductwork, water heater, washer and dryer, or plumbing.
  • Know your property's flooding risk and if you need flood insurance.
  • Don't enter areas where water could encounter electricity. If water has reached electrical outlets or appliance connections and you can safely reach the electrical panel, immediately turn off power to the flooded areas. If you're unable to turn off the electricity, wait until the water recedes before you enter the area.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides detailed information on how to protect your property from flood damage.

Retrofitting Existing Development

FEMA's Homeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting is a great resource for people interested in protecting themselves from future floods.


Several funding options are available to protect your home from future flood damage.

  • The HUD 203(K) loan offers a low-cost option to bundle flood protection with a home refinance or purchase.
  • Increased cost of compliance funding is available to homeowners who have experienced previous flood damage.
  • The Severe Repetitive Loss Program may provide grant funds to assist with flood mitigation if you own a qualifying property.