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Mandatory environmental disclosures in California real estate

On Behalf of | Dec 18, 2023 | Selling Real Estate |

Most states and many local governments require home sellers to disclose certain facts about their homes to potential buyers. The exact requirements differ from place to place, but they usually involve structural issues, defects and environmental factors that may be of concern to buyers and their insurers.

California has many such requirements. In part, this is due to California having natural hazards many states do not, and it has many required disclosures. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of these requirements.

Natural hazards disclosure

Most transfers of real estate in California require disclosures about:

  • Flooding: If they know that the property sits in an area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sellers (or their agents) must disclose this information. Likewise, they must disclose if the property is in an area that could be flooded if a dam fails. Local governments typically keep records of areas that are expected to be affected in the event that a dam fails.
  • Severe fire hazard: If the seller or their agent knows that the area has been designated as a very high fire hazard severity zone, they must disclose this information. This has, unfortunately, been an important issue in recent years in our state.
  • Earthquake hazards: Nearly all of California faces potential earthquake hazards, but the hazards are greater in fault zones. These areas are about a quarter-mile wide and surround areas of known seismic fault activity. If a seller or their agent knows that the property lies in one of these zones, they must disclose this information to the buyer. This information may be available at county agency offices. Likewise, county agencies typically keep information about so-called seismic hazard zones, which refers to areas prone to severe shaking or landslides in the event of an earthquake. Sellers or their agents must disclose any knowledge they have about these hazards.

Learn more

The above are just some of the required disclosures. It’s important to note that California law is strict about natural hazard disclosures, and that sellers can be held liable for the buyer’s damages. Sellers who are unsure about their obligations under these laws can consult with experienced professionals to learn more.