Little-known flooding designation in Tampa could mean hefty costs for homeowners

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If you live in Tampa, a designation you may never have even heard of could drop your property's value. The city's attempt to manage storm water issues could cause a flood of financial problems for homeowners.

A Tampa resident showed FOX 13's Sorboni Banerjee the South Tampa lot where her dream retirement home was supposed to be built. The lot has been redlined -- flagged by the city as being prone to storm-water flooding.

The homeowner, who didn't want us to use her name, had no idea before buying the property. She won't get a building permit until she makes the necessary fixes -- at a cost of $20,000.

We took her problem to Tampa's Public Works and Utility Services administrator, who supervises storm water services for the city. Brad Baird showed us how to search an interactive map on the city's website for redlined properties.

The website defines redline properties as "properties which experience or may be reasonably expected to experience frequent localized flooding problems or which may have other problems or requirements associated with storm water management."

Problems that earn a property redline status include things like being in a flood-prone area, having pipes under structures, insufficient easement, or need specific building or design accommodations.

But to use a tool like the one on the city's website, you have to know it exists, how to find it, and what to search for.

This homeowner didn't. Chances are, others don't know either. We asked if there is any notification process in place for homeowners at the point of purchase or from the appraiser's office.

"No, there's not," Baird admitted. "The appraiser's office is aware of the map but there's no process that I know of."

Redlining doesn't create a lien so a title company wouldn't know about it. And realtors are licensed with state-level tests, so a unique, local issue like this would not be taught.

You'd only learn at the point of applying for a permit.

The first our homeowner heard her property was redlined was when she started to reach out to builders who told her that, before they could move forward, she either had to build on the footprint of the old home she'd torn down or take other measures, which were too expensive for her and her husband, a disabled veteran.

If she doesn't level the slope of the yard, or build drainage ditches or a retention pond, the city will not issue her the permit.

"You put that on a single-family home? A retention pond? That's ridiculous," the homeowner said as she shook her head in dismay.

There are around 4,000 redline properties in Tampa. Many of them are not in a FEMA flood zone.

Baird said the city determines redline status based on "decades and decades of flooding complaints from customers," adding there is not a standardized method for categorizing properties. He said input is also taken from workers in the department.

That has environmental attorney George Gramling questioning the constitutionality of redlining.

"My bells and whistles go off. That would be an unfortunate situation for any property owner to surprisingly learn that the value of their property had literally been taken by the implementation of a regulation that they had no notice of or opportunity to challenge," Gramling said.

Baird says the onus is on homeowners and buyers.

LINK: To see if your property or a property you are considering buying has been redlined, visit

Editor's note: This link was provided by the city of Tampa and was working without issue until the day after our report aired. It was offline for a day due to what the city called "unrelated maintenance," but should be available again.