If you were buying property in the State of Texas, the seller would have to tell you about any history of flooding. That is because Texas law requires full flooding disclosure during real estate sales. Florida law, however, does not impose this condition. If you are considering buying property in Florida, it’s crucial to know: What is being left out of Florida flood disclosures?
Florida Property Disclosures
When selling property in Florida, a seller must tell the buyer specific vital details about the property. These facts, or disclosures, typically consist of known problems the property has had in the past or has now. The Florida Association of Realtors has created a “Sellers Property Disclosure Form” that is commonly used for this purpose. A seller is not legally obligated to use the form. Still, he or she does have to let a potential buyer know about any significant (material) defects, or problems with the property.
Material and Latent Defects
In general, a defect is material if it’s something that is likely to impact the property’s value, or an occupant’s health or safety. For example, termite damage, toxic mold, or a cracked foundation would need to be disclosed. Sellers also have to disclose latent defects, or those that are not necessarily observable to the buyer but are known to exist. For instance, if the seller knows that a particular gutter causes an issue with the roof during heavy rain, that fact would need to be communicated.
Although Florida Statute §161.57, requires sellers to disclose a property’s potential for coastal erosion under certain conditions, the legislature has not passed a comparable law when it comes to property flooding. Currently, sellers have to disclose anything that could substantially impact the value of the property, but there is nothing that officially requires a flood disclosure. The Florida Association of Realtors has a Flooding Disclosure form that sellers can voluntarily use. The fact that a seller is not mandated to tell a buyer about past flooding leaves buyers at a significant disadvantage.
The Tampa Bay Times recently published a story of a buyer who purchased her Florida home, which was later badly flooded during Hurricane Irma. After the homeowner filed her insurance claim and began repairs, she learned that the property had flooded three times before her ownership, and she was facing major insurance issues.
Given its history of extreme weather, several areas of Florida could be at risk for flooding. Many homeowners have flood insurance in these communities, but it’s vital to do your due diligence before you buy. Florida and FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have resources to assist in researching properties and identifying flood risks. Additionally, your local real estate professional can assist you in finding out more about the area where you want to buy and property history. Given the damage a flood can do, it’s best to leave no stone unturned when it comes to knowing flood risks.
At Rabideau Klein, Guy Rabideau, Esq. and David E. Klein, Esq. are dedicated, Florida Board-Certified Real Estate Attorneys with the local expertise and experience you need to ensure that your interests are protected during your Palm Beach County real estate transaction. Contact Rabideau Klein today to discuss your real estate legal needs.