Elevation Certificate - When and How it is Used

Real Estate

A Flood Elevation Certificate documents your building’s elevation. If you live in a high-risk flood zone, you will need an Elevation Certificate before you can obtain an accurate flood insurance policy quote.

Your insurance agent needs this information to compare your building’s elevation to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), which determines how high the water will rise during a base flood. Here are some common questions on how to obtain one:

HOW DO I GET AN ELEVATION CERTIFICATE?
If you are starting the Elevation Certificate procedure from scratch, check with your municipal government for any elevation information or certificate on file for your property. If none is available, you may have to contract a state-licensed surveyor, architect or engineer to do an Elevation Certificate. The cost of the Elevation Certificate will vary significantly depending on your location and complexity of the job. A surveyor’s cost can vary from $500 to $2,000 (or more). Get at least a few quotes and compare pricing carefully.

HOW DOES AN ELEVATION CERTIFICATE AFFECT FLOOD INSURANCE RATES?
There is a correlation between how high your property is above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) and the actual cost of a flood policy. In a high risk zone, the higher your BFE, the lower your policy will most likely be. Conversely, the lower your BFE, the more your flood insurance policy will cost.

You need to supply an Elevation Certificate for an insurance agent to compare it against your property’s BFE.

Property owners that have constructed or modified their building at least 3 feet or more above the BFE will most likely save significant money on flood insurance premiums. The estimated flood insurance savings on a single-family home, without a basement, built 3 feet above the BFE, is approximately $90,000 over a 10-year period, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

DO I NEED AN ELEVATION CERTIFICATE IF I DON’T LIVE IN A HIGH-RISK ZONE?
In most cases, you will not need an Elevation Certificate if you fall into a low- to moderate-risk zone (or zones beginning with letters B,C, or X). Your insurance agent will tell you if one is needed.

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I RECEIVE MY ELEVATION CERTIFICATE?
You will need to provide your insurance agent with a copy of the Elevation Certificate. Of course, store copies in a safe area for yourself.

DOES AN ELEVATION CERTIFICATE EXPIRE?
An Elevation Certificate does not expire. However, newer Elevation Certificates require additional information that older ones do not offer. In order for an agent to offer you a quote on a high-risk flood policy, you may need to update your Elevation Certificate. Unfortunately, this may require that you again enlist the services of a surveyor or architect to provide that additional information.

Terms associated with Flood Elevation Certificates
Base Flood: The base flood is a flood with a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.
Base Flood Elevation: The BFE determines how high water will rise (also known as water surface elevation) in a base flood.
Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE): Recent and accurate flood hazard data developed following a disaster to guide the rebuilding process until more detailed data becomes available.
Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM): A map issued by FEMA that shows flood risk, BFEs, and risk premium zones.
Pre-FIRM: Buildings and structures built before the community’s first FIRM. Depending on your community, it might not have elevation information on file for these properties.
Preliminary Map: A term used for updated FIRMS before they are adopted by a community an dmade effective. Insurance premiums are based on the effective maps.
Special Flood Hazard Area: This is the land area. it is also referred to as a flood plain or high-risk zone.
Post-FIRM Construction: A structure built or substantially improved on or after December 31, 1974, or on or after the date of the initial FIRM for your community. FIRM dates can be found at:http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.sh