FEMA Flood Elevation Certificates
Do you remember Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans? If you recall, New Orleans is built below sea level. After that event, Congress passed a law that greatly increased the price of obtaining Flood Insurance and enforced lending institutions to require a borrower to be covered by adequate flood insurance. As a result, whether you are financing a new home, refinancing a current home or applying for a home equity loan, you will be required to obtain flood insurance if your property is located within a designated flood zone.
Obviously, each location is different. The extent of flooding will be different and therefore the degree of risk to the insurance company will vary. A Flood Elevation Certificate can be completed by a Surveyor to quantify that degree of risk.
The Surveyor will come to the site and determine the elevation above sea level at the location. Measurements will be taken at the highest and lowest grade along the building wall. Measurements will also be taken on the first and second floor. Note that the basement or crawl space is considered the first floor. If neither of those exist, the concrete slab will be considered the first floor. Additional, applicable measurements will also be observed depending on the given situation.
The Surveyor then compares those measurements to the Flood Study published by FEMA for that Community (Municipality), to determine what the published Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for the given location is. The Elevation Certificate can then be sent to your insurance company to determine the annual rate of flood insurance for your individual location.
But what happens if you are in what is known as Zone A? Our Blog has an article titled “Those Pesky Zone A Determinations” for a discussion on that situation. Zone A means that FEMA “believes” that your building would flood during the statistical 100-year storm event, but a detailed analysis has not been completed to prove it. Unfortunately, you are guilty until proven innocent. A Flood Study can be completed in order to determine the degree of flooding at your building. This will then allow a level of risk to be determined which can be utilized to determine a reduction in your flood insurance premium.
But what if when the Surveyor arrives, they determine that your property actually will not statistically be subjected to flood waters. That may be the equivalent to hitting the lottery. FEMA does establish a process for making a correction known as a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). This certificate can be completed based on the documented BFE from the FEMA Flood Study or if that is unavailable as in the case of a Zone A, the BFE can be obtained by a Flood Study conducted by Meck-Tech, Inc. A LOMA application can be sent along with other documentation to FEMA and upon verification, remove a structure or portion of land from the flood zone.