FEMA Questions and Answers
These are questions that are asked about the Elevation Certificate process.
What is an Elevation Certificate?
The Flood Elevation Certificate is an important tool of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is used to certify building elevations if the building is located in a SFHA in order to:
- Determine the proper flood insurance premium rate for the building.
- Support a request of a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or Letter of Map Revision based on fill (LOMR-F).
The elevation information must be submitted on the Elevation Certificate (FEMA Form 81-31) in effect at the time that the Elevation Certificate was completed and signed. Elevation Certificates can only be completed and performed by a licensed land surveyor in the State of Florida. Except for the proposed construction in section C1.
What is a Flood Zone?
A Flood Zone is an area that has been carefully studied by the government to determine the probability of flooding due to intensive storms, or along the coast, severe tidal conditions. Flood Zones are designated to specify the probability and frequency of anticipated flood conditions. Flood zones range in severity. There are areas of minimal flooding and areas where flooding is expected to occur frequently.
Why has the Government designated these flood zones?
In an effort to protect property owners from the material and financial devastation of natural disasters, the federal government has implemented various "protection" programs, of which the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is one. Through careful studies of communities across the United States, the government has identified specific flood prone areas, known as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), and now mandates proper insurance within those flood hazard zones.
How are Flood Zones determined?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) compiles the results of extensive flood studies, and publishes "Flood Insurance Rate Maps" (FIRM). These maps, organized by community (city, town or subsection thereof), indicate those areas which may anticipate flooding conditions and delineate them according to frequency and severity of flooding.
What are the Flood Zones?
There are six (6) flood zone designations.
Some zones have multiple sub-designations, as follows:
- Zone "A" (and its sub-designations: AE, AH, AO and A1-A99) These are Special Flood Hazard Areas where flooding may be expected to occur at least once within a 100 (one-hundred) year period. All lenders must require borrowers to purchase and maintain flood insurance for Zone "A" properties.
- Zone "V" (and its sub-designations: VE and V1-V99) Coastal Flood Hazard Areas subject to both flooding and severe tidal conditions. Here again, flood insurance is mandatory.
- Zone "C" Areas of "minimal" flooding. This is one of the most desirable areas, and requires no insurance.
- Zone "B" Areas where flooding is "anticipated" once in 500 (five-hundred) years or, if more frequently, only to minimal depths. Flood insurance is not mandatory in these areas, but is available.
- Zone "D" These are areas that have not been studied and therefore are non-participatory in the program.
- Zone "X" This is the newest designation, and may indicate either Zone "B" or Zone "C." The intent is to readily distinguish areas that typically do not require flood insurance from those which do, thereby minimizing confusion.
Flood Insurance was never required on my property until now...why?
There are a number of different possible answers to this question:
- The previous owner could have purchased the land without having a lender involved. Only lenders are required to enforce participation in the National Flood Insurance Program; there is no public law requiring such participation. Therefore, people who purchase flood insurance do so either for their own protection or due to the requirement of their mortgage holder.
- The property may have been purchased before the flood maps and requirements concerning flood insurance were either in place or being enforced.
- The flood maps in a given area may have been recently revised. This works both ways in that areas which were previously not located in a special hazard area may now be, or better yet, areas that had been categorized in a hazard zone may now be clear.
Can a Flood Zone Designation be changed?
Yes. If you believe that the FIRM designation is erroneous you may submit an engineering study to the government and request a LOMA (letter of map amendment). If based on the study you provide, the government agrees that your property is not located in a special flood hazard area, a LOMA will be issued, and you may no longer be required to purchase or maintain flood insurance (some lenders may still require it).
Can Flood Insurance Premiums be reduced?
Yes, it is not only possible, but also highly probable that a lower premium may be secured. Most insurance companies compute the rate for flood insurance based on the worst-case scenario; that is, the highest possible rate. However, if the house is elevated above the level at which the government has determined that flooding is probable, the insurance company can use specific elevation information to compute a lower rate, based on a sliding scale. The specific information necessary for rate determination is provided on an Elevation Certificate.
Why do I need an Elevation Certificate?
The Elevation Certificate is an important administrative tool for the National Flood Insurance Program and is required to properly rate flood insurance for post-FIRM buildings or pre-FIRM buildings rated based upon the determined Base Flood Elevations for the flood hazard area.
What if there is a certain day by which I need the Elevation Certificate, such as, a loan closing?
When placing the order on the website, you will be asked to provide the date needed. We can accommodate most timeframes even RUSH orders.
Is there an additional fee for a rush order?
The fee to provide a RUSH order may be increased based on property type, location, and the timeframe within which you need the Elevation Certificate.
Do I have to be at the property during the surveying work?
You do not have to be present unless special arrangements are required to allow the surveyor access to the property or if the property has a crawl space or basement. If you have special requirements that may require an appointment please be sure to include an access contact name and phone number when entering your property information.
Can we arrange the surveyor's visit around my schedule if I am required to be present during the surveying work?
The only time we can guaranty when our crews will be on the site is the first job each morning. So if it is required that someone meet us on the site we can set a time and date to meet you, however, if the early morning does not fit in your schedule we can guaranty a day, but not the exact time they will be there.
There are multiple buildings on the property, how do I indicate this when placing my order?
When placing the order on the website, use the comments section to indicate the number of buildings that need to be included.
We have a detached garage on our property as well; will I need an Elevation Certificate for that structure?
A detached garage used only for parking and storage for a 1-4 family residential building is an appurtenant structure and only 10% of the building coverage can apply to this detached building. The detached garage cannot have any plumbing in order to qualify under the 10% coverage. If required or you elect to have a separate insurance policy for this building then a separate Elevation Certificate can be obtained.
The building is a business, but it is a former house turned into a business, is this commercial or residential?
If the property is to be insured as a commercial property, then it must be treated as a commercial property according to the National Flood Insurance Program.
Can I get a hardcopy of the Elevation Certificate mailed to me?
Yes, we will supply you with 3 hard copies of the EC. More copies can be requested at an additional printing fee. The elevation certificate can be mailed out after completion and when the invoice has been paid in full. Prepayment is encouraged to expedite the processing, but not required. All EC's must be paid in full prior to faxing, emailing, or pickup.