Undisclosed: Fire And Flood Risk In The United States

Updated: 2020-11-12 09:16:03
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Kevin and Susan Boudreaux have survived multiple catastrophic floods in Cameron Parish, La. Storm surge from this year's Hurricane Laura severely damaged the RV park they own.

Kevin and Susan Boudreaux have survived multiple catastrophic floods in Cameron Parish, La. Storm surge from this year's Hurricane Laura severely damaged the RV park they own.

There have been many climate-related disasters this year, and along with those events come a heavy emotional and financial toll for residents. But what NPR climate reporters Rebecca Hersher and Lauren Sommer have found is that most people don't realize their wildfire or flood risk — and that's putting millions in harm's way.

In most parts of the U.S., landlords, real estate agents, sellers, appraisers and home inspectors are not required to tell tenants or buyers about flood or fire risk before they move in. None were required to do so. In fact, only about half of states require that information about flood risk be disclosed to homebuyers at all, and just one state requires that such information be given to tenants. Meanwhile, only two Western states require disclosure of wildfire risk.

What's more, a growing body of research suggests that the flood and fire disclosure laws that do exist provide information in confusing ways or give too little information too late in the homebuying process.

But there are things you can do to check your risk and make yourself safer:

  • Check out their series on the effects of climate-related floods and fires: Climate Risk Hits Home.
  • Read Lauren's piece on six questions to assess your wildfire risk.
  • Read Rebecca's piece on six questions to assess your flood risk.

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever tried to get information about the risk of floods or wildfires when moving to a new home? NPR would like to hear about your experience. Share your story in the form below, and a reporter might contact you.

Your submission will be governed by our general Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. As the Privacy Policy says, we want you to be aware that there may be circumstances in which the exemptions provided under law for journalistic activities or freedom of expression may override privacy rights you might otherwise have.

Lauren and Rebecca are both on Twitter. You can follow them @lesommer and @rhersher to keep up with the latest climate news. We're always all ears for your climate inquiries and musings — email us at [email protected]

This episode was produced by Rebecca Ramirez, edited by Viet Le and fact-checked by Berly McCoy.

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