Elevation Certificate

If your home or business is in a high-risk area, your insurance agent will likely need an Elevation Certificate (EC) to determine your flood insurance premium. Floods mean rising water. Knowing your building’s elevation compared to the estimated height floodwaters will reach in a major flood helps determine your flood risk and the cost of your flood insurance. An Elevation Certificate is an administrative tool of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which is used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community floodplain management ordinances, to determine the proper insurance premium rate, or support a request for a LOMA.

How an Elevation Certificate is Used

If your building is in a high-risk area—a zone indicated with the letters A or V on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM)—the EC includes important information that is needed for determining a risk-based premium rate for a flood insurance policy. For example, the EC shows the location of the building, Lowest Floor Elevation, building characteristics, and flood zone.

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Your insurance agent will use the EC to compare your building’s elevation to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) shown on the map being used for rating and determine the cost to cover your flood risk. The BFE is the elevation that floodwaters are estimated to have a 1 percent chance of reaching or exceeding in any given year. The higher your lowest floor is above the BFE, the lower the risk of flooding. Lower risk typically means lower flood insurance premiums.

Who Needs an Elevation Certificate

For certain high-risk structures, an EC is required by an insurer as a condition for issuing flood coverage. There are exceptions. For example, if your building was constructed before your community’s first FIRM became effective (known as pre-FIRM) and you are eligible for a subsidized rate, you do not need an EC to purchase coverage. However, subsidized rates for pre-FIRM buildings are being phased out through annual premium increases. Your full-risk rate is specific to the property, and an EC will be needed to calculate the property-specific full-risk rate. Depending on your elevation, the full-risk rate could already be lower than the subsidized rate.

When You Need a New Elevation Certificate

If you make substantial changes to your building in a high-risk area—for example, you make an addition to your home or convert the garage to living space—you likely need a new EC to reflect the new building characteristics and Lowest Floor Elevation.

Plan for the Future

Building code requirements might change over time as flood risk changes and maps are updated. If you are remodeling or rebuilding, consider elevating to lower your flood risk, which, in turn, can lower your flood insurance rates and reduce the financial impact of the next flood.

How Do I Obtain Or Review The Flood Map For My Area And How Do I Read It?

The most widely distributed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood map product is the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). A FIRM offers much useful information and represents the official depiction of flood hazards for a community.

On the FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC) you may research, view and download (free) the available inventory of effective NFIP products, including the FIRM, the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) Report that accompanies the FIRM and other mapping products. The “effective date” is the date on which the NFIP map for a community becomes effective and all sanctions of the NFIP apply. Therefore, an “effective FIRM” is the NFIP map issued by FEMA that is in effect as of the date shown in the title block of the map as “Effective Date,” “Revised” or “Map Revised.”

You can also create a customized FIRMette—a paper copy of a user-defined portion of an effective FIRM, produced and saved on your computer. The FIRMette is a full- scale section of a FIRM that you create and formatted to print on most home/ office printers. The FIRMette can be used to help determine the location of a property or structure relative to the Special Flood Hazard Area and includes title block, scale and north arrow. To learn more about FIRMettes and how to create one, view the How to Find Your FIRM and Make a FIRMette Tutorial.

You may also view copies of the effective FIRM and FIS report by visiting the Community Map Repository for your community, which is usually maintained by the community floodplain administrator or officials at the planning and zoning office.

Homeowners are urged to use the How to Read a FIRM Tutorial along with the FIRM for your property to assist you in determining the potential flood risk for your property and whether you should insure your home from flood loss, as well as the How to Read a FIS Tutorial to assist you in understanding the information presented in the FIS report.