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Home buyers should be told about past flood damage, groups say

The intersection of Riverside and Lake drives in Charlotte flooded after a storm in 2019.
David Boraks
The intersection of Riverside and Lake drives in Charlotte flooded after a storm in 2019.

Home sellers in North Carolina have to tell buyers if their properties are in a flood zone, but they don't have to say if homes have been damaged by flooding. As climate change brings more intense storms, environmental groups want to change that.

Seven groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center have asked the state Real Estate Commission to adopt rules requiring disclosure of past flood damage.

"North Carolina does not require sellers to inform home buyers whether a home has previously flooded, and that's neither fair nor transparent," said Joel Scata of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"A home that has flooded once is likely to be hit again. And the cost of such damage can be extremely high for unsuspecting home buyer — often tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a mortgage," he said.

More than 290,000 single-family homes in North Carolina have past flood damage — both at the coast and inland, according to a study for the council this summer. Last year, more than 13,000 of those were sold. Future damage could cost an average of $61,000 per house over 30 years, according to the NRDC study.

"As flooding becomes more extreme due to climate change, (and) impacts like bigger storms and sea level rise, North Carolina will start to experience more floods, which means more people will be damaged by these flooding events," Scata said. "So it's really important that people have information about flood damage to potential homes so they can make an informed decision."

The groups are asking the commission to update North Carolina's real estate disclosure form and require sellers to say how many times a property has flooded in the past, the cost of flood insurance, and the amount of any past flood insurance claims or federal disaster relief.

Besides the NRDC, petitioners include the North Carolina Justice Center, MDC, North Carolina Disaster Recovery and Resiliency School, Robeson County Church and Community Center, and NC Field, which represents farm workers.

The real estate commission did not respond to a request for comment.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.