Important Information regarding changes in FEMA Flood Maps
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the government agency that determines which properties in the United States are in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). In August, 2012 FEMA updated their flood zone maps with new elevation information. The result of this work is that tens of thousands of properties in El Dorado, Sacramento and Yolo Counties that were previously classified as low risk have now moved into higher risk flood zones. These residents are now forced to pay much higher premiums to maintain flood insurance, which is often required by mortgage lenders. In November, 2018, FEMA updated their flood zone maps for Placer County as well, with the same results for home owners.
What is an Elevation Certificate?
An Elevation Certificate is an administrative document used by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to certify the elevation of buildings in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zone. Information collected for the elevation certificate includes the type of building, elevations of the ground outside the building, elevations of floors including basements and crawlspaces, and the location of machinery such as boilers and air conditioners.
Who needs Flood Insurance?
Owners of property near water where the chance of flood damage is significant should have flood insurance to protect their assets. Your mortgage or home equity lender (or in some cases, your local community) may require that you have flood insurance if your building is in a hazardous flood zone.
Why do I need an Elevation Certificate?
If your building is at or above the Base Flood Elevation (which is a number determined by FEMA for each flood zone), you are entitled to lower insurance premiums. The burden of proof of these elevations is on the homeowner. The Elevation Certificate must be completed by a Licensed Land Surveyor and serves as the proof needed if you qualify for lower rates.
According to most local building codes, elevation certificates are required for new construction and for "substantial improvements" to buildings in a flood zone. This is to prove that the structure was built in compliance with the codes and ordinances written to minimize flood damage.
Sometimes there are properties identified on the Federal Flood Maps as being in a special flood hazard zone when, in actuality, the property is high enough to be classified as a low flooding risk. In this case, the property owner may choose to submit a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) to FEMA, which is a request to change the flood hazard designation for the property. An Elevation Certificate will be used to support a LOMA or LOMR.
How does this affect you?
The difference in premiums between hazardous zones and low risk zones can be thousands of dollars per year for the maximum coverage provided.
What should I do next?
At Area West Engineers, Inc., we have set up a process for getting you the help you need while minimizing exposure to wasted spending. Call our Principal Land Surveyor, Charlie Czapkay, at (916) 725-5551.
The total cost of obtaining an elevation certificate in most cases is $750.00 per building. This is a onetime fee compared to higher annual premiums resulting in thousands of dollars lost each year.