Federal Public Assistance Guidelines For Debris Removal From

Private Property


Debris Removal from private property is the responsibility of the individual property owner, aided by insurance settlements and assistance from volunteer agencies. Most insurance policies have specific coverage for debris removal and demolition of heavily damaged structures. FEMA assistance is not available to reimburse private property owners for the cost of removing debris from their property; however, an eligible local or state government may pick up and dispose of disaster-related debris placed at the curb by those private property owners. Generally the extent and duration of this type of work is carefully controlled. FEMA, state and local officials will agree on a time frame during which pick-up from the curb will be eligible for Public Assistance funding.

If the debris on private business property is so widespread that public health, safety or the economic recovery of the community is threatened, the actual removal of debris from the private property may be eligible. In such situations, the work normally must be done or be contracted for by an eligible applicant.


Debris Eligible for Public Assistance Funds

Debris that may be eligible for clearance, removal and disposal includes trees, sand, gravel, building wreckage, vehicles and personal property. The debris must be a direct result of the declared event, must occur within the designated disaster area and must be the responsibility of the applicant at the time of the disaster. Debris removal may be eligible when it:
  • Eliminates immediate threats to lives, public health and safety
  • Eliminates immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property
  • Ensures economic recovery of the affected areas to the benefit of the community-at-large

Private Property Demolition

Demolishing or securing remaining structures that threaten the health and safety of adjacent businesses or residents should be the responsibility of the owner or local government; however, experience has shown that unsafe structures will remain because of lack of insurance, absentee landlords, or understaffed and under-equipped local governments. Consequently, ensuring the demolition of these structures may become the responsibility of the local designated debris manager and staff, which requires complete cooperation of numerous local and state government officials and my require resources from any or all of the following: tax office, local law and/or code enforcement agencies, state historical preservation office, environmental contractor qualified to remove asbestos and lead-based paint, field teams to photograph and document the sites before and after demolition.
Communities in disaster-prone areas should have copies of ordinances necessary to condemn privately owned structures as part of their local emergency management plan. Demolition of private property invariable presents significant coordination problems. FEMA provides special checklists to guide the process.

Debris Removal from Private Property

Disaster-related debris may be removed from private property if it is pre-approved by the Federal Disaster Recovery Manager, is a public health and safety hazard, and if the work is performed by an eligible applicant, such as a municipal or county government. The cost of debris removal by private individuals is not eligible under the Public Assistance Program; however, within a specific time period, a private property owner may move disaster-related debris to the curbside for pick-up by an eligible applicant. That time period will be established by FEMA in coordination with the State. (The cost of picking up reconstruction debris and normal garbage/trash pick-up is not eligible for FEMA reimbursement).

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