Let The Buyer Beware: A Comparison Of Flood-Related Real Estate Disclosure Laws Of Virginia And Other States
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Let The Buyer Beware: A Comparison Of Flood-Related Real Estate Disclosure Laws Of Virginia And Other States

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    Real estate disclosure laws vary from state to state, but there is a uniform need across the country for individuals and families to be well-informed about the conditions affecting a home before closing. Purchasing a home is typically the largest financial decision a person will make over the course of their lifetime, so it is critical that homeowners know of any conditions that could affect the value and longevity of their homes before committing to decades of debt. Some states have specific laws that protect buyers from unknown information by requiring a seller to disclose certain pieces of information to all potential buyers. However, in other states, this transfer of information is often impeded by a longstanding Common Law principle of property law: caveat emptor, or “let the buyer beware.” This white paper examines the state of flood disclosure laws for residential real estate transactions in Virginia and compares them to those of other states that have much more rigorous disclosure laws. Part II explores the history behind Virginia’s current “buyer beware” laws and examines previous attempts at establishing stricter real estate disclosure laws surrounding “special flood hazard areas”. Part III surveys a number of disclosure laws from other states that have successfully required sellers to disclose the risk of flooding in some capacity, and examines the events or circumstances that led to the enactment of those laws. Finally, Part IV concludes with an examination of the policy implications of implementing more stringent disclosure requirements in the Commonwealth.
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