Privacy laws are generally put in place to protect our personal information from getting out in front of the public eye. The Privacy Act of 1974, though dated, provides citizens with the right to control the federal government’s use of their personal data. This law, enacted several decades ago, is putting a damper on the home buying process for many prospective purchasers by protecting the flood history of homes listed for purchase from public disclosure. Arguably, however, this crucial information should be disclosed upfront to prospective buyers.
Once a property is listed for sale, the right to privacy of the seller in regards to flood claims is often outweighed by the consumer’s right to know the damage history of the property. For example, when purchasing a used car it is important to ensure the vehicle has not been in a major accident or flooded. Services like Carfax exist to look into the potential damage history of a vehicle. This same type of service, unfortunately, isn’t available to homebuyers.
Typically, the seller of a home is only required to disclose what they are “actually aware of.” If a seller purchased his or her property after a flood, he or she may be unaware of previous flood damage if it was not disclosed when they purchased the home.
Some states, including Texas, require those listing a home for sale to disclose prior flood damage. After the devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, Senator Joan Huffman of Houston enacted a new law requiring homeowners to disclose information regarding potential flood risks and flood history prior to selling their property. Previously, sellers in Texas were only required to disclose whether their home was in a 100-year floodplain.
Though this new law provides greater transparency for potential homebuyers, the disclosure of a property’s detailed flood insurance history is not required. In fact, homebuyers would have a hard time gaining access to these items without the seller’s direct authorization.
Houston Hurricane Residential Claims Lawyers
As many Houstonians know, hurricanes can be incredibly devastating. Across Texas, many are still trying to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Homeowners trying to move away from areas that flooded as a result of the storm will have a harder time selling their homes because of the city’s propensity to flood and the new requirement that they disclose specifics with regard to flood history. Contact the insurance attorneys at Raizner Law today to discuss your situation.