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Elevation Certificates are fast becoming an important document for homeowners and business owners in the floodplain.

Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12) on July 6, 2012.  The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created in 1968.  Over the past 45 years, tens of billions of dollars have been paid in claims to help people recover from the devastation of flooding.  BW-12 was passed as an attempt to sustain the program.

Flood events over the past 10 years, such as Katrina and Sandy have drained the program to a 25 billion dollar deficit.  Some property owners whose homes and businesses are in the 100 year floodplain have been enjoying subsidized insurance premium rates for years.  The subsidies exist as a method of “grandfathering” structures that were built prior to the NFIP.  Premiums are subsidized by other flood insurance policy holders, and the public in general.

BW-12 moves to eliminate subsidized rates, and provide insurance rates commensurate with a structure’s full risk.  This is called “the full risk rate”.  The full risk rate of a structure is based on several factors, including the structure type, number of stories, foundation type, and elevation of the structure’s lowest floor as compared to the base flood elevation, or the 100-year flood elevation.

In order to accurately identify the lowest elevation of a building, an elevation certificate must be completed by a licensed professional surveyor, engineer, or architect.  The elevation certificates are a FEMA form that identifies basic property information, flood insurance rate map (FIRM) information, building elevation information, and the information is certified by the licensed professional.

On the elevation certificate, the FIRM information will document the base flood elevation, and the field survey will document the elevation of the lowest floor, next higher floor, floor elevation of an attached garage, lowest elevation of equipment serving the structure, lowest adjacent grade next to the structure, highest adjacent grade next to the structure, and the lowest adjacent grade at the lowest elevation of deck or stairs.

The elevation certificate is then provided to an insurance agent, who will compare the base flood elevation to the various building elevations provided by the professional.  The agent will then determine the appropriate “full risk rate” premium for the property owner’s flood insurance policy.

For any structure in the floodplain, the elevation certificates will be required when the property is bought/sold, or used for refinancing and a mortgage is involved.  An appropriate insurance premium must be determined to satisfy eligibility of a prospective buyer to close on the sale.

We have been completing elevation certificates for property owners in the central Susquehanna valley since Flood Insurance Rate Mapping was created in the 1970’s after Hurricane Agnes devastated this part of the country.  We have committed to prioritizing the completion of all elevation certificate requests we receive.  We have been completing them in two weeks or less.

If you need to have an elevation certificate completed for your property, just contact us, and one of our professionals will gladly walk you through the process and review our fee schedule with you.  Good Luck.