What is an Elevation Certificate?
Last updated: October 2023
When do I need an Elevation Certificate?
If your property is considered high risk of flooding, you have the option to obtain FEMA's Elevation Certificate for your property as a way to potentially lower costs when you buy flood insurance, according to FloodSmart.gov. The certificate shows how your property's elevation compares to the base flood elevation on a flood map, FEMA explains. Structures that sit at the base flood elevation are considered to have a 1 percent chance of flooding each year. Your property's lowest point of elevation is compared to the base flood elevation to help determine its flood risk and how much you'll pay for a flood insurance policy, FEMA says.
In addition, you will probably need a new Elevation Certificate if you make significant changes to your property. For example, building an addition or converting a garage into livable space may change your home's lowest point of elevation and flood risk, according to FEMA.
How Do I Get an Elevation Certificate?
If you're purchasing a home, you may also want to ask the sellers to give you its Elevation Certificate, if they have one, or to provide it before your closing, FEMA suggests. Likewise, if you're building a new home in an area that's high risk for flooding, the builder may have been required to obtain an Elevation Certificate, which you can ask them to give you. If yours didn't, there are other ways you can obtain one.
If your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, the floodplain manager at your local municipal office can tell you whether an Elevation Certificate is already on file there, FEMA says.
Hiring a professional land surveyor to evaluate your property and complete a new or updated Elevation Certificate is another option, according to FEMA.
What should I do with my Elevation Certificate?
If your home is in an area that's considered high risk of flooding, you'll probably need to provide your Elevation Certificate to your insurance agent to get a flood insurance quote.
According to FloodSmart.gov, if you choose to get an Elevation Certificate it should be provided to your insurance provider, who will help determine if it can be used to lower your flood insurance rates.
You can look up your property on FEMA's flood maps to help determine whether your property is in a high-risk flood zone and if you may want to acquire an Elevation Certificate.
Keep in mind, though, that all properties have some risk of flooding, so it may be a good idea to consider buying flood insurance even if you're not required to. Your insurance provider can help answer your questions so you can determine whether flood insurance makes sense for you.