Petition to shield home buyers from unforeseen costs and damages
CHARLESTON, S.C. — This month, a new disclosure form published by the South Carolina Real Estate Commission goes into effect that will ensure better information about flood history and erosion risk is shared between home sellers and buyers across the state. This improved transparency will help home buyers better prepare for future floods and take precautions such as purchasing flood insurance. Previous requirements did not give home buyers enough information about flood history or insurance claims, leaving buyers to discover flood risks after a storm brought property damage and high costs.
Remarkably, there is no nationwide requirement that flood history be shared between seller and buyer during a home sale. This breakdown in risk communication makes it harder for state agencies to prepare for the accelerating impacts of climate change, and it unfairly leaves buyers in the dark. Thanks to proactive leadership from the state Real Estate Commission, South Carolinians will benefit from more comprehensive flooding disclosures for every home that goes on the market starting this summer. These changes empower homebuyers with more information and promote better decision-making and storm preparedness.
“The revised Residential Property Disclosure Statement strikes a great balance between increasing consumer awareness while also protecting existing homeowner rights,” said Nick Kremydas, Chief Executive Officer of South Carolina REALTORS®. “These changes would not have been possible without the forward thinking of the Real Estate Commission and the leadership of their Chairman Andy Lee nor the efforts of the Southern Environmental Law Center and Coastal Conservation League. It was pleasure to work with these groups for changes that will protect lives, properties, and dreams.”
Not limited to coastal areas, South Carolina is vulnerable to multiple flooding hazards from severe thunderstorms to hurricanes, and flooding is often exacerbated by development patterns. Nearly 210,000 South Carolinians are living in 900 square miles of flood-prone areas, and those affected by flooding before are likely to get hit again. While buyers could previously guess a home’s flood history using FEMA flood maps where they are accessible, all too often these maps do not accurately depict flood risk.
“People buying homes in high-hazard areas have to be informed before they can be prepared,” said Emily Cedzo, Director of Conservation Programs & Policy at the Coastal Conservation League. “Thanks to the leadership of the Real Estate Commission and partners at the South Carolina Realtors Association, there will now be greater transparency in real estate transactions in our state.”
In addition to adding much-needed detail about the condition of a property, including flooding and coastal processes, enacting these disclosures could help reduce flood insurance rates across the state by earning points for all communities using the Community Ratings System.
“We applaud the South Carolina Real Estate Commission for empowering new homeowners with better information on flooding and erosion risks,” said Jenny Brennan, SELC Science and Policy Analyst. “This commonsense measure helps make the state more resilient to the next storm.”
The decision will allow South Carolina to catch up to states like Louisiana and Texas that already ensure buyers have information about a property’s flood and coastal hazard history. A similar change is coming to North Carolina after the state’s real estate commission passed a flood disclosure petition in March. With North Carolina and South Carolina now requiring improved disclosure of flood history, SELC will continue to work to advocate for these policies across the South.