In the state of California real estate sellers and brokers are legally obligated to inform their prospective buyers whether the property they are selling is located within one or more state-mapped areas where threats of fire, flood, earthquake, seismic activities, and other types of hazards exist.
This information, called the Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement (NHDS), is mandated by the Natural Hazards Disclosure Act (which falls under Sec. 1103 of the California Civil Code and which took effect on June 1, 1998). Under this Act there are six types of hazards that legally require disclosure: special flood hazard area; dam inundation; very high fire; wildland fire; earthquake fault zone; and, seismic hazard. Real property sellers, however, have also included in the NHDS the following supplemental hazards reports: radon gas exposure; airport influence area; Megan’s law disclosures; and, military ordnance.
In detail, these hazards reports are about the following concerns:
Required Hazards Reports
- Special Flood Hazard Area – refers to properties that are located within Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). These properties are identified in maps maintained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and, through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), these qualify for low cost flood insurance.
- Dam Inundation – areas which can be flooded and become drainage basins in case of failure of a dam or levee due to erosion, earthquakes, etc.
- Very High Fire – mapping of areas, which hold abundant fuel or are dry, too windy and difficult to access, that have high risk of fire.
- Wildland Fire – reports regarding this hazard include areas that can be affected by forest, grassland or brushland fire.
- Earthquake Fault Zone – structures for human occupancy are prohibited from being built within 600 feet of identified active fault zones. These zones are shown in map called the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone Maps.
- Seismic Hazard – this report contains areas at risk to landslides, liquefaction, strong earthquakes and other earthquake-related ground failures.
Supplemental Hazards Reports
- Radon Gas – this cancer-causing, radioactive gas is estimated to cause thousands of deaths in the US every year. It is colorless and odorless and can be found all over the US – in offices, schools and, most especially, in homes. Its worst effect, when inhaled, is lung cancer (it is now held that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US; the first is smoking).
Radon gas is the result of uranium breaking down in well water, and igneous rock and soil. Due to the great danger it causes, the Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988 (IRAA) directed the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to record and identify areas with the potential for higher indoor levels of radon.
- Airport Influence Area – refers to properties that are located within 2 miles of an identified airport.
- Megan’s Law – this is based on Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, which provides information, such as the community of residence and the ZIP Code, where listed sex offenders and other certain types of criminals live.
- Military Ordnance – provides information about properties that are located in formerly used defense sites, which are known to still be containing hazards.
On July 1, 2013, notification of prospective residential real property buyers about the availability and accessibility of the general locations of gas and hazardous liquid transmission pipelines was also made mandatory in a natural hazard disclosure report. This mandatory notice is called the Gas and Hazardous Liquid Transmission Pipelines.
While there are now different firms that provide natural hazards information to potential property buyers, not all are able to provide error free information and high quality service to all clients. Probably more important than buying a dream house is making sure that it is safe from any form of disaster – this is just what a natural hazard disclosure report aims to achieve.Read More