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What Is an Elevation Certificate?

Published: September 2019

An elevation certificate is a document that lists a building's location, lowest point of elevation, flood zone and other characteristics, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It is used to enforce local building ordinances and to help determine flood insurance rates.

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When Do I Need an Elevation Certificate?

If your property is considered high risk of flooding, you'll likely need to obtain FEMA's elevation certificate for your property before you can buy flood insurance. 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.

Remember, not every property needs an elevation certificate. 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 need 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. A local agent can help answer your questions so you can determine whether flood insurance makes sense for you.

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This content is for informational purposes only and may not be applicable to all situations.

Subject to National Flood Insurance Program terms, conditions and availability. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). NFIP flood policies are underwritten by the federal government and sold and administered by private insurance companies like Allstate through the Write Your Own (WYO) Program. © 2019 Allstate Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL.
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