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The purpose of this page is to define variance, a commonly used term in floodplain management.


A grant of relief by a community from the terms of a floodplain management regulation. Because a variance can create an increased risk to life and property, variances from flood elevation or other requirements in the flood ordinance should be rare. Insurance premium rates are required by statute to be based on actuarial risk and will not be modified by the granting of a variance. Specific criteria for granting a variance is described in the supplemental information.

FEMA may review a community's findings justifying the granting of variances, and if that review indicates a pattern inconsistent with the objectives of sound floodplain management, FEMA may take appropriate action up to and including suspending the community from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Requirement


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Supplemental Information for Variance

FEMA does not set forth absolute criteria for granting variances since they are are usually subject to State statutes and case law. However, FEMA will use the following general standards to evaluate variances issued by a community:

(1) An applicant has good and sufficient cause for requesting a variance;

(2) An applicant will suffer exceptional hardship should a variance be denied;

(3) A variance will not cause increased flood heights, additional threats to public safety, extraordinary public expense, create nuisances, cause fraud on or victimization of the public, or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances;

(4) A variance is the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief.

Functionally Dependent Uses 3/28/86 Proposed Rule, pp 10745-10746

Last Updated: 
05/23/2019 - 08:47