Water damage is a nightmare for property owners. But unfortunately, storms, leaks, and flood damage are on the rise. According to facts and statistics from the Insurance Information Institute, one if every 50 insured homes files water damage claims each year.
With that in mind, home and business owners cannot afford to be uninsured. But before purchasing flood insurance, property owners may need elevation certificates from a local land surveyor. These certificates can help insurance providers calculate flood insurance premiums.
What Is A Flood Elevation Certificate?
An elevation certificate is a formalized document that provides information about your home or business structure. It typically outlines the:
- Lowest point of elevation
- Location and flood zone
- Building characteristics
Landowners use elevation certificate data to ensure the property complies with local construction codes and ordinances. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) uses the information to establish the property’s flood risk. Insurance providers use the data to calculate a flood insurance premium.
Who Needs Elevation Certificates?
An elevation certificate determines valuable flood information about a property. While not every plot of land may require these documents, all property owners are encouraged to get one. If you are looking to obtain an elevation certificate, a licensed land surveyor can help.
Properties in High-Risk Flood Zones
Any property located in a high-risk area needs an elevation certificate to secure flood insurance. In addition, landowners purchasing flood insurance through the NFIP will need an elevation certificate.
Keep in mind that all properties have flood risks. Therefore, property owners are encouraged to invest in flood insurance plans regardless of their risk.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that buildings at the base flood elevation have a 1% chance of flooding per year. An elevation survey defines where the property’s elevation compares to the base flood elevation identified on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).
People Who Make Changes to Their Property
If you plan to make substantial improvements to your estate, like converting a basement into a living area or building an addition, your home’s lowest elevation point may change.
When the base flood elevation changes, so do insurance rates. Therefore, you will need to obtain an updated document from a land surveyor.
How Do Insurance Companies Use Elevation Certificates?
The certificate determines the likelihood of flooding on your property, which insurance adjusters use to calculate policy prices. For example, if the certificate proves that the lowest floor of your property clears the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) level, you may qualify for lower rates.
The Rate Calculation Process
Elevation reports list the property’s location and flood zone (determined by the NFIP). An insurance provider uses this information to determine the level of flood risk.
Next, an adjuster analyzes the property’s building characteristics to determine if special features on the property require additional coverage. Building characteristics can include extra attachments, annexes, garages, and tool sheds.
Finally, the adjuster examines the Lowest Flood Elevation (LFE), which is the most critical piece of information for determining flood risk. The LFE is the area most likely to flood. For homeowners, this structure is typically the basement or garage.
How Do I Get an Elevation Certificate?
You will need to hire a land surveying team to obtain a flood elevation certification if:
- You are building on a new property
- You are adding new structures to your estate
- There is no record of an elevation certificate for your current plot of land
Professional land surveyors assess a property. Technicians visit your home and use high-quality devices to locate the lowest point of elevation, flood zone, and building characteristics.
After performing fieldwork, a surveyor will compile all necessary elevation into an official document. Home and business owners can keep their updated elevation certificate on file and refer back to it as needed.
Flood Elevation Certificates for Existing Land
If you purchased an existing property, there should already be an elevation certificate. Contact the seller or the property’s real estate agent to obtain it. Keep in mind the certificate may be attached to the property’s deed.
If the seller or real estate agent does not have the elevation record, contact the floodplain manager at your local municipality office. As the primary flood loss prevention authority, the manager keeps elevation certificates on file for properties in his or her jurisdiction.
As a final effort, reach out to the property developer. If your property is in a high-risk flood zone, the developer may have already completed an elevation certificate.
What Should I Do with My Elevation Certificate?
If your property is in a high-risk flood area, you will need to submit your elevation documents to an insurance agent to receive a flood insurance quote.
Even if your insurance agent does not require the certificate, you can still include it in your elevation assessment to ensure you receive fair insurance rates for your property.
Once you have the certificate, keep it somewhere safe (like with your property’s deed), so you can refer back to it as often as needed.
Cost of Elevation Certificates
Based on national rates, the average elevation certification costs $600. However, prices may range between $169 and $2,000. Prices vary due to:
- Available data (more research equals higher rates)
- Property type, structure, and size
With that in mind, certifications for residential properties are less expensive than commercial plots. In addition, most land surveying teams can provide customers with free surveying estimates.
Need Elevation Documents? Scalice Can Help
Flood elevation certificates are necessary tools for property owners. If you need a new or updated certificate, Scalice Land Surveying can handle it.
Our team provides detailed property reports to residential and commercial landowners throughout New York. Contact us for a free elevation surveying estimate.