California has gorgeous landscapes, a diverse geography and a warm climate – and all of that makes it an ideal place to live for a lot of people. However, all that natural beauty brings its own set of challenges, including the risk of some major natural hazards.
In the interest of fairness to prospective property buyers, California has some mandatory natural hazard disclosures.
Key elements of the Natural Hazard Disclosure Report
The 1998 Natural Hazard Disclosure Act set down the standards that sellers have to uphold. The Natural Hazards Disclosure Report can be quite lengthy (more than 40 pages long), and it includes both minor potential hazards (like proximity to an airport) as well as major ones.
The main natural hazards that must be disclosed include:
- Whether the home is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area, since buyers may need to pay for additional flood insurance on top of their regular homeowners policy
- Whether the residence is in a Dam Inundation Zone, meaning it would be flooded if there was any sudden release of water from a nearby dam
- When the home is in a Very High Fire Hazard Zone, something that’s increasingly important due to the number of problems the state has had with wildfires
- The fact that the residence is within a Wildland Hazard Fire Zone, which means that the state generally disavows responsibility for fire protection for the structure
- When the property lies in an earthquake fault zone, and would then require additional earthquake insurance
- When the residence is within a seismic hazard zone, meaning it’s outside of the fault zone but still prone to earthquake damage
It may surprise buyers to learn that a seller’s failure to comply with the law isn’t considered a valid reason to rescind a real estate deal. However, if you’ve been deceived, you may have other legal options.