Monday, May 20

New bill would require sellers to disclose flood risk information to homebuyers

Heather Gakers nightmare began in May of 2015 when she fell in love with a property walking distance from the intracoastal in Boynton Beach.

She didnt want to show her face but she did want to share her story.

“I was devastated, she said.

She added if she wouldve known what she knows now about the property and its history of flooding, she wouldve never bought it.

“I wouldve walked away, Gaker said. “I wouldve walked very fast away.”

Gaker said she felt taken advantage of in the home buying process, mistakes shes still paying for.

“I was lied to, she said. “They may have thought they were telling a little white lie saying a little water came in one time. But when you ask, this is important and I tell everyone it after this experience, you find out what the flood history is.”

According to Gaker, the initial disclosure form she was given for the property didnt mention any history of flooding, and was only updated to reference one incident after she asked.

She didnt realize she was only hitting the tip of the iceberg.

A few years after moving in, the home flood and she filed a claim only to make a shocking discovery.

“That the house is now declared an SRL, a severe repetitive loss, Gaker said. “I was told the house had several floods and when you have four flood claims over $5,000 each, FEMA declares it severe repetitive loss.”

Realtors WPTV spoke with said under current law during the buying process, the only party with knowledge of flood history are the sellers.

Unless the owner discloses that we wouldnt have any information on if theres already been any damage, said real estate broker Paige Hails.

The damage was so bad, Gaker had to demolish the home and build a new one, with the help of a Hurricane Loss Mitigation Grant through the Florida Division of Emergency Management. She eventually won her lawsuit against the realty group.

Democratic Representative Christine Hunschofsky from Parkland introduced House Bill 1049, or the flood disclosure in the sale of real property bill, following Gaker’s case.

Hunschofsky told WPTV in a statement in part:

“The purpose of this bill was to let home buyers know if flooding claims have been made on the home and to educate them that flood insurance is not included in property insurance.

If signed into law, it would require a seller to tell buyers if a property previously flooded. Gaker said she hopes others dont repeat her mistakes.

“The homeowners need to be honest with the buyers,” Gaker said. “Its buyer beware out here. You need to know what youre buying. I learned the hard way and Im working through it.”

The bill, which passed the House, is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

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