Buyer Beware: In 21 States Home Buyers Don’t Have to Be Informed About Past Flood Damages
CHICAGO – In 21 states, home sellers are not required by law to disclose to buyers whether their potential dream home has ever flooded or whether they will be required to purchase flood insurance, according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. The findings are presented on a detailed map of state real estate disclosure laws.
“In nearly half the states the deck is stacked against home buyers because sellers get a pass on revealing a property’s flood history,” said Joel Scata, attorney with NRDC. “With flood risks rising throughout the country, this is a problem that Congress has the ability to fix.”
States with the worst disclosure laws include Florida, Missouri, New York, and New Jersey. Missouri has zero provisions that would require a seller to tell a buyer whether a house has ever flooded. New York State has disclosure provisions, but allows sellers to pay a paltry $500 to opt out of informing buyers about flood damages. The impact is broad: More than 41 million Americans live in flood zones.
Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have a wide array of disclosure requirements, most of which still fail to give a buyer complete knowledge of past flood damage and future flood risks.
NRDC recommends greater disclosure of flood risks during real estate transactions as key to encouraging prospective homeowners to be more risk adverse when deciding where to live, and whether to take actions to minimize their risks if they do decide to purchase a flood-prone home.
However, such disclosure provisions should not be limited to disclosure requirements imposed on sellers. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) must also be better about the information that is available to both home buyers and home owners. Current home owners should have a right-to-know about their property’s past history of flood insurance coverage, damage claims paid, and whether there is a legal requirement to purchase flood insurance because of past owners receipt of federal disaster aid. This is information that Federal Emergency Management Agency should have if a property was ever covered by the NFIP.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.