Also known as an EC, an elevation certificate is a document that ensures your home is in compliance with FEMA community floodplain building regulations, helps gauge your home’s flood risk, and can provide information on ways to reduce flooding.
Previously, elevation certificates were required under certain circumstances to get flood insurance coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Under FEMA’s new Risk Rating 2.0 method of calculating NFIP flood insurance rates, elevation certificates are no longer required to purchase coverage. However, getting one could potentially result in cheaper flood insurance premiums.
What is an elevation certificate?
An elevation certificate is a six-page document that provides information about your home’s susceptibility to flood damage, including your property’s:
Lowest floor elevation as compared to base flood elevation (BFE)
Building characteristics and makeup
Elevation certificates are no longer used to calculate NFIP flood insurance premiums
Under FEMA’s new Risk Rating 2.0 methodology for calculating NFIP flood insurance rates, elevation certificates are no longer used to determine premiums. In the past, ECs were used to show the difference in elevation between your home’s lowest floor and the ground level to determine rates based on your home’s risk of flooding. Now instead of these certificates, FEMA uses its own tools to determine the first-floor height of homes and other properties when calculating rates.
Do you need an elevation certificate to buy flood insurance?
No, elevation certificates are no longer required to buy flood insurance through the NFIP. That said, it may still be a good idea to request one yourself.
As a homeowner, you might want to get an elevation certificate and then submit it to your agent at the time of your policy renewal for two reasons:
Cheaper rates: Elevation certificates can ensure a home in a high-risk area is compliant with floodplain management building requirements, which affects your eligibility for Community Rating System discounts. You can also use an EC to prove your home’s lowest floor is several feet above your community’s base flood elevation (BFE), which can lead to cheaper rates.
Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) requests: If you have a federally backed loan, your lender will require you to get flood insurance if you live in a high-risk area. If you don’t believe your home is in a high-risk flood area, you can request a LOMA and use an elevation certificate to back up your claim. If your claim is legitimate and your request is accepted, your lender is legally prohibited from requiring flood insurance.
How do you get an elevation certificate for flood insurance?
If this is your first time looking into an elevation certificate, make sure there isn’t already one on file for your home. Here are a few people or places you should check with:
Your local floodplain manager
The developer or builder
Your property deed
If there is noprior elevation certificate for the home, you’ll need to hire a state-licensed surveyor, engineer, or certified architect who is authorized to certify elevation information.
To find a professional surveyor, FEMA recommends doing the following:
Checking with your state professional association for land surveyors
Ask your state NFIP coordinator
Talk to your local building permit office
How much does an elevation certificate for flood insurance cost?
The national average for an elevation certificate is around $600, according to MassiveCert, a company that specializes in flood zone analysis and elevation certificates.  But costs will vary depending on your home’s occupancy type, structure type, location, and the complexity of the job.
How to get cheaper flood insurance with an elevation certificate
Your flood insurance costs depend on a variety of factors, namely your home’s flood risk. If you take actions to flood-proof your home, like if you retrofit it above your community’s base flood elevation (BFE), you should submit an elevation certificate to your agent to prove it.
Let’s look at an example.
Say you live in a high-risk area and you recently retrofitted your home — which could involve raising it with jacks or filling in your basement — so that it’s not only above the BFE, but it clears it by about five feet. Since your home’s elevation certificate reflects the home’s characteristics prior to it being retrofitted, you’re probably paying more than you should for flood insurance.
According to FEMA, a home elevated just one foot above the BFE can lower flood insurance premiums by as much as 30%.  Updating your elevation certificate after a retrofit can save you tens of thousands of dollars down the road.
Do I need an elevation certificate if I have private flood insurance?
No, an elevation certificate isn’t required to get private flood insurance. However, some insurance companies offer discounts if you have an elevation certificate that proves your home is above the base flood elevation.