The National Association of Realtors (NAR) on Wednesday unveiled its state flood disclosure tracker tool, aiming to offer clarity and access to survey existing state disclosure requirements for flood insurance.
Working in conjunction with the Legal Research Center, the tool is meant “to educate the public and Congress as it considers the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) legislative proposals to reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), including the unnecessary and misguided disclosure form proposal,” NAR said in a statement.
Current legislative proposals would require states to “mandate a real estate-related disclosure form with specific flood-related questions,” which would require 49 states to “make significant amendments to its laws and regulations” leading to an administrative and enforcement burden, NAR said.
Data from the Legal Research Center concluded that all 50 states and Washington, D.C., already require disclosing known material property conditions or facts, including the disclosure of prior flood damage.
“America’s 1.5 million Realtors are in the business of streamlining processes to best serve all current and future homeowners across this country,” said Tracy Kasper, president of NAR, in a statement. “The proposed legislation would add unnecessary red tape to an already complex purchasing and selling process.”
Citing the research, Kasper added that there is “no need to have federal government involvement in a practice that each state knows how to handle best. The proposed FEMA form would not be useful to buyers and duplicative for sellers, virtually having them check the same box on a different form.”
The disclosure requirement is designed to address a persistent hurdle for renters and buyers when they complete a real estate transaction, according to a May 2022 letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alice Lugo to Vice President Kamala Harris.
“FEMA sees a strong public policy interest in there being an affirmative obligation on the seller or lessor of a residential property to disclose information about flood risk to prospective buyers or lessees,” an analysis of the proposal included in the letter read. “This approach would rely on the initiative of states and communities rather than requiring FEMA to directly regulate real estate transactions.”
Legal Research Center CEO Kevin Ritchey says that FEMA did not take existing state laws and regulations into account when making its recommendation.
“The FEMA study solely considers whether specific questions are asked on a required disclosure form and ignores existing state laws, regulations, and court rulings addressing flood disclosure requirements,” he said. “A one-size-fits-all approach of a federally-required form fails to address local needs.”
A lapse in NFIP will take place if the government enters a shutdown, which will take place on Nov. 17 unless Congress acts. Before the latest continuing resolution (CR) passed by Congress, experts warned that an NFIP lapse would have a chilling effect on the mortgage industry.
Leaders in Congress are debating another CR to keep the government funded into January 2024.