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In high-risk areas, insurance agents often require an Elevation Certificate (EC) before determining the premium on your flood insurance. But beyond just insurance purposes, a flood elevation certificate is a good way to get a clear picture of how your home or business would be affected in the event of a flood.
What Is an Elevation Certificate?
An EC is a document that provides the elevation of your building, ensuring it meets minimum elevation requirements. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) buildings in Special Flood Hazard Areas have the proper elevation and venting needed to minimize flood damage. Elevation Certificates confirm whether a building is compliant with community and local floodplain management ordinances.
Often, communities require that properties get an EC during the permit process. To find out if there is an Elevation Certificate for your property, contact your local floodplain officials or the planning and zoning office. If there is one, you can get a copy from community officials or the property developer.
A licensed land surveyor, registered architect, or registered professional engineer that is authorized by local or state law to certify elevation information needs to prepare and certify the elevation certificate for it to be valid.
How Much Does Hiring a Surveyor For a Flood Elevation Certificate Cost?
Providing the exact price for a survey to complete an Elevation Certificate is difficult, as there are multiple factors that play a role in determining the total cost. Some surveyors charge a lump sum, while others charge by the hour.
- On average, hiring a surveyor for a flood Elevation Certificate costs between $650 and $2,000
While this seems like a pretty wide price margin, there are reasons for that. For example, whether the site has any elevation benchmarks is a large cost determinant. FEMA often requires benchmarks to be placed near properties in known flood areas, which surveyors use as a starting point to save time. If there is no benchmark, they must start from scratch, which draws out the process and increases the price.
The overall scope of the project itself comes into play, as well. If there are multiple structures on the lot and multiple ECs needed, it's going to take longer for the surveyor to collect data. The more time and work that goes into the job, the higher the cost.
Flood Insurance and Elevation Certificates
For structures in high-risk areas, it is common for insurers to require an elevation certificate before issuing flood coverage. The EC has information that is necessary for determining the premium of your flood insurance. It's important to note that, although you buy the policy through your insurer, all flood insurance is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by FEMA.
Your insurance agent compares the elevation of your building to the base flood elevation (BFE) shown on a flood insurance rate map (FIRM) to figure out the cost of covering your flood risk. Typically, the lower the risk the lower the premium. Zones on a FIRM detail your risk level, with high-risk areas labeled as A or V. There are some exceptions to this. If you are eligible for a subsidized rate and your structure was built before your community's first FIRM went into effect (referred to as pre-FIRM), then an elevation certificate is not required for coverage. It should be noted, though, that annual premium increases are phasing out subsidized rates for pre-FIRM structures. Realistically, an EC is needed to calculate the full-risk rate specific to your property.
You do not need an EC if you are in a moderate- to low-risk area (zones B, C, and X) or undetermined risk areas (zone D). There are also some high-risk areas (such as zones A99 and AR) that qualify for other subsidies and do not need an Elevation Certificate.
Remember that building codes and other requirements change over time, so it is important to research the most up to date regulations.