How Do I Know the House I am Buying Was Not Sandy Damaged?

Unfortunately, we are all too well aware that many houses along the ocean and lagoons were damaged or destroyed by Sandy. However, although not as obvious, many houses sustained damage due to basement flooding and roof damage. Although the damage may not be readily apparent, it is incumbent on you and your attorney to get answers to the following questions: First, “Did the house sustain damage and to what extent?” And, second, “With the change in Base Flood Elevations, is the house now located in a flood zone that requires a higher elevation?”

With regard to the first question, if the house or property sustained any storm damage or flooding, there are two steps that can be taken to ensure you have all the necessary important history of the property. First, you must carefully review the Sellers Disclosure Form, which is completed by the Seller and provides detailed information about the structure and property. If possible, prior to submitting an offer to purchase, ask the Sellers about the house and whether any damage was sustained during Sandy.

Many times, communication with the Seller may not be available. Therefore, your attorney should review the Seller’s Disclosure with you and, if required, ask for more information or for clarifications. That inquiry may include, “Did the house sustain storm damage and, if so, provide all information including copies of insurance claims or contractor repair documentation”. You may also need to ask if the proper permits were received to complete any repair or remediation work. It is critical to obtain this information prior to the conclusion of attorney review.

The second question you must have answered prior to purchasing the house is to determine whether the flood zone has been changed due to the release of the new flood maps. This question may take more due diligence than simply asking the Seller. You do not want to rely on inaccurate information, as a mistake in understanding the current flood zone can be devastating. A mistake can lead to future exorbitant flood insurance rates or even the mandatory requirement to raise the house.

There are many ways to obtain this information. First, there are many websites where you can input the property lot and block and obtain that information. This step should always be a preliminary step and should be followed by confirming this information with your insurance broker. Brokers are able to determine your premiums by looking at the new flood zone designations. Also, you should go to the local town hall and ask to speak to the professional who is responsible for reviewing and providing information about the flood maps to inquire as to whether your potential new home will be need to be raised.

The above items are not an exhaustive list of what you and your attorney can do to ensure you are purchasing the home of your dreams. If you have additional questions or need assistance in purchasing a home, contact the attorneys at the Law Office of R.C. Shea and Associates.

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