What is a natural hazard disclosure?

The seller must disclose whether a piece of property is in a hurricane-prone area.

A natural hazard disclosure is a document provided by the seller of a property to the buyer, outlining whether the property is in an area known to be prone to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes. It is designed to protect buyers against the inadvertent purchase of properties that could incur damage from natural disasters simply because of the property’s location in a naturally hazardous area. The disclosure document is usually prepared by a third party for the transaction to prevent disclosure fraud.

Sellers in California are required to report information about known fire zones.

In the United States, there is no federal mandate that requires sellers to provide natural hazard disclosures to buyers during a transaction. Some states have created their own disclosure regulations, however. These include Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho and Washington – all states with a high risk of various natural hazards. Other states have no natural hazards disclosure regulations and still operate under caveat emptor, which is also known as buyer care sale.

California, in particular, has one of the most comprehensive natural hazard disclosure laws. In 1998, the state legislature created a standardized disclosure form that detailed a variety of natural hazards known to the state. Sellers are required to report information about known fire zones; seismic zones, including landslide areas; floodplains; and earthquake fault zones.

Natural hazard disclosure usually indicates whether a property buyer has legal permission to develop or alter the property in any way. It can also specify whether the property meets special insurance requirements or whether the owner is entitled to federal assistance after a natural disaster. In some cases, disclosure of natural hazard may not be sufficient to absolve the seller of liability in a property. Locations that require disclosure may also specify that if a seller is aware of a natural hazard that is not present on a standardized form, he or she still has an obligation to report it, as well as perform any special reports or obtain any relevant maps documenting it. the danger.

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Failure to report potential disaster areas is known as natural hazard disclosure fraud. If the seller is found to have deliberately withheld information about natural hazards affecting a property in order to promote the sale, the seller may be held liable for damage caused to the property during a natural disaster. Sellers are generally not responsible for errors or omissions on natural hazard disaster forms if the information they obtained came from a public agency or qualified expert and was reported in good faith. The term “qualified experts” for legal real estate purposes generally includes licensed contractors, geologists, engineers and surveyors.

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