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New Jersey announces new measures that alert homebuyers, renters of potential flood risks

As New Jersey recovers from widespread flooding from the past week and braces for more rain in the forecast, the state is moving to protect home buyers and renters from damaged housing.

“As we continue to live with the impacts of climate change in our communities, it’s essential that we inform prospective homebuyers and renters of the risks in areas where they are looking to settle down,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a written statement.

The state will require new property disclosure forms that notify prospective buyers and tenants of a property’s known flood history and potential flood risks. The Murphy Administration will also create an online look-up tool that will identify whether a property is in a flood zone. The introduction of the new measures follow a law signed by Murphy over the summer and will go into effect in March.

“These new protections will enable prospective home buyers and renters to stay a step ahead when it comes to finding the safest residence possible for themselves and their families,” Murphy wrote.

This past week, residents were evacuated and homes were badly damaged by flooding in Paterson, Wayne, and Little Falls.

A new report by Rutgers University found that approximately 630,000 properties in New Jersey are at risk of flooding at least once in the next 30 years. It lays out a primer for local officials on creating more flood resiliency, such as rain gardens and pavement that absorbs water.

Before the adoption of New Jersey’s flood risk disclosure law, sellers and landlords were under no obligation to disclose a property’s flood history to potential buyers and tenants. Also, there was no requirement to inform buyers or renters that a property sits within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Hazard Zone Area.

Once a home has been damaged in a flood, it is at a higher risk of future flooding. In New Jersey, 7,944 homes were purchased in 2021 that were previously flooded, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Too often, buyers and renters are unaware of the risks they face and make important decisions on where to live without any knowledge of a property’s flooding history or potential,” said Shawn LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

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