Last Update: 04/18/16
Most sellers and buyers of residential real estate here in Florida depend upon their real estate agents to help them through the process. For buyers, it’s making sure that they have all the information that they need to make an informed purchase. For sellers, it’s relying upon their agent to know what must be shared with the buyer and what need not be told to them in order to get the house sold.
In Florida, disclosures to real estate buyers are governed by case law and by statutory law; statutes were written and court cases were filed because sellers all too often failed to reveal something about the property which ended up harming a buyer. As a result, certain disclosures are now mandatory in every residential real estate transaction.
Still, sellers and buyers will continue to lean on the real estate experts to make sure that all the disclosures are being made — and there will be times when things are not revealed to buyers that should have been disclosed.
Which brings us to Florida and flood risks.
New August 2014 Broward County Flood Zone Maps
Yesterday (August 18, 2014), new flood zone maps became the law in Broward County, Florida, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These flood maps apply to all property in the county (there are similar maps for Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, too).
These maps break down the risk of flooding in Broward County into “flood zones,” assigning areas with the biggest dangers of flooding due to storms or hurricanes with a specific zone designation (A, AE, AH, etc.).
Some flood zones legally require property owners to have flood insurance for their property. Other flood zones do not make flood insurance a legal requirement, but they may suggest flood insurance might be prudent.
It’s important to know what flood zone applies to any potential Florida real estate purchase.
Disclosure of Flood Risk is Required by Law
FEMA’s new August 2014 flood maps mean that real estate agents and real estate brokers need to disclose to potential buyers of real property in Broward County of their flood risks and flood insurance requirements under these new FEMA guidelines.
Broward County has published the flood maps on its website, and encourages the public to review the flood zones. Broward.org reminds everyone that in this part of the state, ”[a]ll areas are susceptible to flooding, although to varying degrees.“
Now that this information has been made available to the general public, real estate agents and brokers (and sellers) have a duty to disclose to buyers (or to make sure buyers are aware) of the flood risks associated with a particular piece of property; buyers looking to purchase a home or condo in Broward County, should have the new August 2014 Flood Zone information provided to them regarding their potential purchase.
Flood Insurance Coverage as a Mortgage Requirement
One protection for buyers in Florida is the requirement that any property that is located in a flood zone, where the purchase is financed with a federally-backed mortgage, must be covered with flood insurance. Whether or not a private mortgage will demand flood insurance coverage depends upon that lender. (Note, if a buyer purchases a property with cash, then the buyer has no outside party helping to protect them by requiring the purchase of flood insurance.)
A Florida Real Estate Lawyer Should Review The Disclosure Statements Before The End of Your Inspection Period
A Florida real estate lawyer who is routinely involved in real estate transactions should know to review the Property Disclosure Statement for you before the end of your inspection period. If necessary, the lawyer should address any issues he/she finds in the disclosure statement with the broker, agent and/or Seller, and negotiate those for you (maybe a lower price or a warranty?).
Ultimately, an experienced real estate lawyer should be able to guide you into determining whether or not you should go forward with closing in view of any problems that may exist — like a changed flood zone.
A good piece of advice is to at least speak with an experienced Florida real estate lawyer to learn about your rights. Most real estate lawyers, like Larry Tolchinsky, offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
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