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If you’re looking to buy a house in Texas, the homeowner is now required to tell you if it has ever flooded. Likewise, if you own a home that’s flooded, be prepared to disclose that under expanded state regulations that took effect this month.
These aren’t the first disclosure rules mandated in Texas. A previous law said homeowners had to disclose if their property was in a 100-year floodplain. But floodplain maps are not always accurate, and development and climate change are making flooding more prevalent.
The new rules, prompted by massive flooding after Hurricane Harvey, expand disclosure. Now a seller has to tell a buyer if, to their knowledge, the home has ever flooded. Sellers also have to say if the property is in a 500-year flood plain, a flood pool or near a reservoir.
As with the previous law, it is the responsibility of the homeowner, not the real estate agent, to fill out the disclosure form.
“Sellers should be aware of what has occurred,” says Daniel Gonzalez, legislative affairs director for Texas Realtors, a real estate agent industry group. “We hope that as they sell their properties with this new seller disclosure form that they fill it out properly and give more information to buyers.”
Knowingly not disclosing a property’s history could leave a seller open to a lawsuit.
A report last year by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law found that 21 states had basically no disclosure rules requiring sellers to tell buyers about the flood risk of a property.
In that report, Texas and 14 other states ranked somewhere in the middle when it came to the strength of disclosure regulations.
Beyond providing more information to buyers, experts say the rule could reduce the selling price of flood-prone homes. It could also increase use of flood insurance, something officials at all levels of government have been encouraging for years.