Elevation Certificates

An elevation certificate can help you lower your insurance rate. Here's what else you should know about this key document.

Overview

An elevation certificate is a document that protects homeowners from overpaying on flood insurance. It is regulated by FEMA and completed by a licensed engineer or surveyor. Data collected on the elevation certificate allows insurance companies to more accurately assess a property's flood risk by verifying the elevation of the home in comparison to sea level. The home's elevation determines whether or not it meets or exceeds the standards set forth by the current Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) produced by FEMA.

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What information is on the elevation certificate

Three key data fields on the elevation certificate are the flood zone location, building type and characteristics, and the lowest floor. The lowest floor elevation is the most important factor affecting your flood insurance premium. Your property's Base Flood Elevation (BFE) will be evaluated to assess your flood risk.

How to use an elevation certificate

If you wish to use your certificate, you should provide it to your insurance agent within 90 days from the completion date shown on the document. Based on the information on your certificate, if you qualify for a lower premium your insurance agent must charge you the lower rate or the rate based on the pre-FIRM subsidized rate.

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Who actually needs an elevation certificate

If your home is in a high risk flood zone, your flood insurance provider may require a completed elevation certificate for you to receive coverage. Furthermore, if you make significant changes to the property -- e.g., by adding to the structure or by converting your garage to a living space -- you will need a new elevation certificate.

How to get an elevation certificate

If you are ineligible for services offered through FloodHelpNY, you can obtain an elevation certificate by hiring a professional surveyor to certify your property's elevation information. The average price of an elevation certificate can range from $500 to more than $1,000. Try to get price quotes from at least two surveyors for comparison. Examples of professional surveyors include a licensed land surveyor, engineer or architect who is authorized by law to complete an elevation certificate. FEMA recommends finding a professional surveyor by checking the state professional association for land surveyors and referencing guidance from the Department of Buildings.

If you already have an elevation certificate

If you have an elevation certificate, it is important to ensure that any flood mitigation improvements are reflected on the certificate. You are also required to update your elevation certificate if you make an improvement that alters the data captured on your elevation certificate. During your policy renewal, you may need to submit updated photos in addition to your certificate to show the property's characteristics are still the same.

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