USA: After Harvey surprised thousands with unexpected flooding, new law aims to better inform homebuyers

Source(s)
The Texas Tribune

By Lara Korte and Connie Hanzhang Jin

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Starting Sept. 1, [Texas] will require homeowners to disclose more information about flood risks and flood history before they sell their property. Previously, sellers in Texas had only been required to disclose whether their home was in a 100-year floodplain — an area, typically along a river or bayou, that has a 1% chance of flooding every year. Senate Bill 339, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed earlier this year, expands that disclosure to include whether the home is located in a 500-year floodplain, a flood pool, in or near a reservoir, and whether the home has flooded or may flood in a catastrophic event.

How the new buyer disclosure law affects Harris County

The addition of 500-year floodplains, flood pools and reservoirs nearly doubles the at-risk area homeowners are now required to disclose to buyers in Harris County. FEMA’s floodplain maps already classify reservoirs and floodways as within the 100-year floodplain in Harris County.

It’s a step toward transparency for homebuyers in Texas, but figuring out a property’s true risk of flooding can be tricky, and others are worried about the impacts to home and insurance prices.

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The biggest impact the law will likely have is to spur more people to buy flood insurance policies. Flood insurance is separate from homeowners insurance and optional for homes that sit outside of 100-year floodplains. As of 2017, Texas had about 665,000 flood insurance policies in effect. But many feel that number is far too low, and that floodplain maps don’t do a good job of conveying the true risk of flooding.

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