Flood Elevation Certificates and the Land Surveyor

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 By David Butterbaugh, Jr., P.L.S.

           A flood elevation certificate is an official document distributed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) that requires various measurements to determine elevations concerning your structure or property.  The elevations are to be compared with FEMA data devised from flood studies or assessed data in unstudied areas.  Many people, who own property in a floodplain or an area close to a river, stream or body of water, need a flood elevation certificate.  A variety of reasons sets the wheels in motion for the necessity of a flood elevation certificate.  Perhaps you applied for a loan, applied for homeowners’ insurance, wish to build a new structure, an addition to an existing structure, or you’re looking to purchase a new place to call home.  A simple review of your homeowner’s insurance policy or loan may trigger the need for a flood elevation certificate.  In 2012 the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act created a tool for map and cost revisions.  This put many new properties in a flood plain that were not considered for flood insurance before that time.

           When you need a flood elevation certificate it’s time to call a Land Surveyor.  The Surveyor will conduct research for your property and research FEMA data to find the type of flood zone that applies.  This will help determine the BFE (Base Flood Elevation) for your property and/or structure.  The BFE is one of the main numbers your insurance or lending institution will be using to assess your potential costs.  The BFE is the elevation the water may reach during a 100-year flood or storm (the strongest predicted storm in a 100-year period or a 1% chance of occurring in any given year).    Once the preliminary office and research work is complete it is time to collect field and structure data.  This will require a visit to the property to obtain measurements on the outside and inside of your house or building; such as floor elevations and major appliance (furnace, hot water heater, washer, dryer etc…) elevations.  Once this data has been collected and processed it will be time to fill out the flood elevation certificate and seal the document for submission to you, your insurance or bank and possibly FEMA.

           In some cases, the data may show the need for a LOMA (Letter of Map Amendment) to have your structure or property officially removed from the hazard area.  This would eliminate the need for flood insurance and is a best-case scenario.  If your property or building is not LOMA eligible there may be a change in the premium.  Sometimes the premium is significantly lower, sometimes higher and sometimes there is little change; I had a client get a premium change of $4.00 per year.

           It is of utmost importance to realize it is NOT the Surveyor’s job to get you out of paying flood insurance or to lower the premium.  I have had people get upset when their situation did not change for the better.  I have had people very happy when they became exempt and no longer had to pay for flood insurance.  There is no way to know beforehand what the outcome will be.  The role of the Land Surveyor is merely to obtain the data and submit it the institution involved.  In other words, the Surveyor is merely hired to give truthful accurate data via a professional service.

           The professional team of surveyors at Lehman Engineers consistently provides high-quality surveying services to a wide range of private and public-sector clients. With decades of relevant experience, our survey crews are always lead by a highly-qualified Professional Land Surveyor, utilizing the most recent and innovative survey technology.  Please do not hesitate to call us at (814) 695-7500 if we can be of service to you.  

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