Property owners are often asked for Elevation Certificates from their Municipality, from their Insurance carrier or from their lending institution. It is a document prepared by a Civil Engineer that defines the exact elevation of the building and the floors within the building as compared to the base flood elevation for the site. This is used to determine a proper insurance rate for the parcel. FEMA's webpage provides the following information:
Purpose of the Elevation Certificate
The Elevation Certificate is an important administrative tool of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is to be used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community floodplain management ordinances, to determine the proper insurance premium rate, and to support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or Letter of Map Revision based on fill (LOMR-F).
The Elevation Certificate is required in order to properly rate Post-FIRM buildings, which are buildings constructed after publication of the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), located in flood insurance Zones A1-A30, AE, AH, A (with BFE), VE, V1-V30, V (with BFE), AR, AR/A, AR/AE, AR/A1-A30, AR/AH, and AR/AO. The Elevation Certificate is not required for Pre-FIRM buildings unless the building is being rated under the optional Post-FIRM flood insurance rules.
As part of the agreement for making flood insurance available in a community, the NFIP requires the community to adopt floodplain management regulations that specify minimum requirements for reducing flood losses. One such requirement is for the community to obtain the elevation of the lowest floor (including basement) of all new and substantially improved buildings, and maintain a record of such information. The Elevation Certificate provides a way for a community to document compliance with the community's floodplain management ordinance.
Use of this certificate does not provide a waiver of the flood insurance purchase requirement. Only a LOMA or LOMR-F from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can amend the FIRM and remove the Federal mandate for a lending institution to require the purchase of flood insurance. However, the lending institution has the option of requiring flood insurance even if a LOMA/LOMR-F has been issued by FEMA. The Elevation Certificate may be used to support a LOMA or LOMR-F request. Lowest floor and lowest adjacent grade elevations certified by a surveyor or engineer will be required if the certificate is used to support a LOMA or LOMR-F request. A LOMA or LOMR-F request must be submitted with either a completed FEMA MT-EZ or MT-1 package, whichever is appropriate.
This certificate is used only to certify building elevations. A separate certificate is required for floodproofing. Under the NFIP, non-residential buildings can be floodproofed up to or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). A floodproofed building is a building that has been designed and constructed to be watertight (substantially impermeable to floodwaters) below the BFE. Floodproofing of residential buildings is not permitted under the NFIP unless FEMA has granted the community an exception for residential floodproofed basements. The community must adopt standards for design and construction of floodproofed basements before FEMA will grant a basement exception. For both floodproofed nonresidential buildings and residential floodproofed basements in communities that have been granted an exception by FEMA, a floodproofing certificate is required.
Additional guidance can be found in FEMA Publication 467-1, Floodplain Management Bulletin: Elevation Certificate, available on FEMA's website.
Bono Consulting has prepared hundreds of Elevation Certificates for Commercial, Residential, and Municipal Buildings. We have completed these for both single family homes and multiple building complexes. To complete an Elevation Certificate we have to perform a topographic survey of the perimeter of the building tied into the nearest FEMA benchmark. We locate the highest grade adjacent to the building, the lowest grade adjacent to the building, the lowest floor of the building, the next highest floor, and the lowest level of machinery (furnaces, water heaters, etc.). This information is then compared to the flood elevation for the site obtained from the FEMA FIS profile for the adjacent water stream.