Flood disclosure requirements vary by state because the US has no federal requirement for home sellers to disclose information about a property’s flood risk or previous damage to prospective buyers.
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Flood risk disclosures
In the US, there is no federal requirement for home sellers to disclose information about a property’s flood risk or previous flood damage to prospective home buyers. As a result, it can be very difficult for homebuyers to learn about a property’s flood history. Nonetheless, many people continue to buy homes without such information and, in doing so, may unknowingly be putting their household’s safety and financial security at risk.
States with no requirements
While 29 states have varying types of flood disclosure requirements, 21 states have none (Scata 2018). This means that home sellers in these states do not have to notify buyers whether a property has been previously damaged by flooding or inform them about the extent of previous damage, even if the building was completely destroyed. The lack of regulation in these states and the patchwork of policies in the others makes it difficult for homebuyers to make well-informed decisions about where to buy a house and how to manage their flood risk.
For example, Missouri has no regulatory or statutory provisions that require sellers to inform a potential buyer of previous flood damage to property. Under New York State Law, sellers are required to inform a potential buyer whether the property is in a designated floodplain and whether it has previously flooded. However, New York allows sellers to opt out of this requirement by paying a $500 penalty to the buyer. Many sellers see this as a small price to pay in comparison to disclosing flood risk information that may put the sale of their property at risk.
States with requirements
Other states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, have implemented more robust flood disclosure requirements. For example, Louisiana requires sellers to disclose whether and how frequently the property or building has flooded, whether the property is in a FEMA-designated flood zone, and whether the seller or previous owner received federal disaster aid that would require any new owner to buy and maintain flood insurance for the property.
To learn more about states’ flood risk disclosure laws, see the Flood Risk Disclosure Map produced by the National Resource Defense Council and Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.