People who own or plan to own property in a Special Flood Hazard Area will need flood insurance. To gain that necessary flood insurance, you will have to provide a flood elevation certificate. Here is what you need to know about flood elevation certificates, and how you can get one.
What Is a Flood Elevation Certificate?
A flood elevation certificate is a document containing important elevation and geographical information about a property. The document will outline the property's:
- Specific geolocation
- Flood zone area
- Lowest floor elevation
- Building features and characteristics
The document's information goes towards ensuring the property complies with current FEMA and state floodplain management ordinances. The information contained in the document will also help National Flood Insurance Program insurers figure out the premiums for your flood insurance.
Who Doesn't Need a Flood Elevation Certificate?
You may not need a flood elevation certificate if the property existed before your state started participating in the national flood program. These properties often fall under the category of pre-FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map). If the flood zone map indicates the property sits in B, C, or X zones, then an elevation certificate isn't required.
How Do You Obtain a Flood Elevation Certificate?
Before trying to obtain a flood elevation certificate, you should check to see if one already exists. You can check with your local floodplain manager. You can also check with property's filed documentation. Elevation certificates often sit with the other official documentation, such as the deed. The seller, owner, or developer of the property may also have an elevation certificate.
If no elevation certificate exists, you will need to hire a licensed surveyor to measure and certify the elevation information. You can also hire a surveyor to obtain an elevation certificate even you don't need one.
Boundary surveying and the certificate can help ascertain if you're really in a high-risk flood area or just close to one. The certificate can help lower flood insurance costs by showing your property's flood elevation level isn't as low as originally documented.
Everything changes over time. The land changes and the flooding profiles change as well. You may have added or removed a feature or structure on the property, which can change its overall elevation profile. The Special Flood Hazard Area mapping also goes through redrawing updates.
Don't assume an old flood elevation certificate is still entirely accurate. Any information over 10 years may need refreshing. If in doubt, hire a professional land surveyor to gather fresh elevation information for you.