Aerial view of flooding on Fenwick Island, Delaware, after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: AP

By Molly Murray
26 April 2013

(The News Journal) – A state advisory panel on sea level rise on Friday backed away from a proposal to require sellers to disclose a home’s vulnerability to future flooding.

Instead, they informally agreed to focus on education and steps that will make it easier for buyers to find out if a property is at risk of flooding or storm surge induced by sea level rise.

The 23-member committee, charged with making recommendations on how best to deal with future sea level rise to state environmental chief Collin O’Mara, floated the idea of disclosing such risk before a property changes hands in January.

“I’ve gotten more emails and phone calls about this particular item than anything else,” said William Lucks, the Delaware Association of Realtors representative. “It’s too early in the game,” he said, with so much uncertainty over how much the sea level will rise.

Lucks said that while the homeowner fills out the seller’s disclosure form, the agent is liable for the accuracy of the information.

“I don’t want to put that liability on my agents or myself,” he said. “It’s a concern across the real estate association.”

The committee came up with dozens of proposed recommendations that were presented at three public meetings, one in each county.

Susan Love, the state environmental planner who is working on the recommendations document, said the disclosure proposal turned out to be among the most “polarizing.”

The proposal would have taken a significant step beyond the existing rule of requiring sellers to disclose to buyers that properties reside in designated flood zones, based largely on historic flood and storm surge records.

Sea-level rise disclosures, in contrast, would focus on predictions about areas, now dry, that could be inundated by century’s end.

Kevin Whittaker, a representative of the Homebuilders Association of Delaware, said the existing disclosure form includes information about flooding and flood insurance.

“What wouldn’t the buyer know?” he said. “There is more information than there has ever been.”

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association report found sea level is expected to rise in the mid-Atlantic at double the rate of other regions.

Current state projections suggest that Delaware could lose as much as 11 percent of its land area and as many as 20,000 homes by the end of this century as global temperatures rise, polar ice melts and oceans expand. Higher storm surge could increase the risk.

Sea-level rise disclosure is not a new idea. [more]

Sea level rise panel won't recommend 'future flood' disclosure

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