Flood maps get drawn up and released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after they have completed broad studies of a large area of land. These studies they perform do not necessarily evaluate individual properties—they are focused more on large-scale trends. They then designate certain areas as being Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). An SFHA is a location that has at least a one percent chance of flooding in any given 100 years, and in such areas, FEMA requires mandatory flood insurance.
Again, it’s important to remember that your property individually has not been studied by FEMA—it’s just part of a larger area that has. This means there can be up to a 60 percent margin of error in flood maps, because the specific focused area in which your property lies may or may not experience flooding, but it still falls in an area classified as an SFHA.
There are specific documents that go along with analyzing flood elevation. They include:
An elevation certificate is issued by licensed, professional land surveyors. You might have one included in your closing documents if you purchase the property from someone who had the survey done in the past. Otherwise, if you’re interested in finding an elevation certificate for your property, you can try checking with your local building department to see if there is one on file for your property.
In addition, if you already have flood insurance, that means you have an elevation certificate somewhere. This is because insurance companies require flood elevation certificates in Texas before they issue flood policies. Ask your insurance company for a copy of the policy if you need it. If they do not have one on file, then you should ask how they managed to correctly rate your premiums.
If you are unable to find an elevation certificate for your property, you’ll have to hire a land surveyor to come out and perform the flood evaluation for you to generate a certificate. This certificate is crucial for determining how your property will be able to be removed from the flood zone or otherwise protected.
Property surveys are typically included in closing documents, though again, you can check with your local building department to see if they have a copy of the survey in your home’s permit file. Land surveys and plat maps (which you can also find from the zoning or planning department in your city) show the location of your property in comparison to the other properties and streets in your area. While this doesn’t tell you much with regard to flooding, it does add some extra important context to your flood evaluation and elevation certificate and is an important document to have on hand as a homeowner.
If you’re interested in learning more about flood surveys and flood elevation certificates in Texas and what you need to do to get your hands on one, we encourage you to contact the team of professional surveyors at D.G. Smyth & Company today.