Home Buyers Kept In the Dark on Flood Damages

WASHINGTON – Home buyers in nearly half of the states can be left in the dark about the flood risks to their new house. An updated scorecard released today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) shows which states have the best and worst disclosure requirements to protect home buyers. 

Knowing if a house has flooded in the past helps a buyer decide on that purchase, or whether or not they need insurance against water damage. More than 41 million Americans live in flood zones, with many poor and disadvantaged communities in most peril. Our climate crisis is increasing those risks for millions more.

“The deck is stacked against home buyers, leaving millions of people investing their life savings in risky properties without knowing it,” said Joel Scata, an attorney with NRDC. “With flood risks rising throughout the country, we need to strengthen these disclosure rules across the board.”


The updated scorecard details each state’s provisions, including:

 

  • Florida and Virginia, where tens of thousands of properties are flood prone, have no statutory or regulatory requirement that a seller disclose past flood damages;
  • In New York, sellers can pay $500 to not disclose previous flooding;
  • Texas, on the other hand, put in place a top-notch disclosure requirement after Hurricane Harvey;
  • South Carolina improved its rules following a series of stories detailing the problem in the Charleston Post and Courier.

 

It’s worth noting that disclosure doesn’t affect federal flood insurance requirements or rates; it just alerts a buyer to the risks.

NRDC is working with states to strengthen these requirements. In addition, lawmakers in Congress have proposed including a nationwide standard in legislation to reauthorize the federal flood insurance program. After years of fits and starts, that legislation has a chance of becoming law this year, and NRDC will be working to ensure that disclosure is included in the bill.

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) 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, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

 

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