What is an elevation certificate for flood insurance?

While an elevation certificate is no longer required to get flood insurance through the NFIP, requesting one anyway may help you score lower rates.

Pat Howard 1600Kara McGinley

By 

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a senior editor and licensed home insurance agent at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

 & Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

Updated January 19, 2022 | 2 min read

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If you have flood insurance and your home is located in a high-risk flood area, you may want to consider getting an elevation certificate. Also known as an EC, it’s a certification 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.

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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: 

  • Flood zone

  • Lowest floor elevation as compared to base flood elevation (BFE)

  • Location 

  • 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 is using its own tools determine the first-floor height of homes and other properties when calculating rates. 

Who needs an elevation certificate?

Although ECs are no longer required to secure coverage through the NFIP, it may still be a good idea to request one yourself. As a homeowner, you might want to get an EC 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.

➞ Read more about flood insurance requirements 

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How do you get an elevation certificate?

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 seller 

  • The developer or builder 

  • Your property deed

If there is no prior 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 checking with your state professional association for land surveyors, asking your state NFIP coordinator, or talking to your local building permit office.

The national average for an elevation certificate is around $600, according to MassiveCert, a company that specializes in flood zone analysis and elevation certificates. [1] But costs will vary depending on your home’s occupancy type, structure type, location, and the complexity of the job.

How to get cheaper rates 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 so that it’s not only above the BFE, but it clears it by about five feet. (Elevating your home could involve raising it with jacks or filling in your basement or crawlspace, among other possibilities.) 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%. [2] 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.

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