Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Q: I saw the recent article in the Beachcomber about sea level rise and the possibility that some waterfront homes will be underwater or flooded in the future.

I think that should be disclosed when a waterfront owner puts their house on the market.  I think that would be ethical.  Isn’t that true?

A:  The seller’s disclosure has been crafted to speak specifically to the current and past issues in that specific house on that specific property only.  The attorneys who write these forms specifically exclude what could be called global issues.  We don’t ask the seller to disclose the fact, for instance, that we live in an area of active earthquakes.  Rather the form asks if this house has had earthquake damage.

It would be impossible for a seller to even know all there is to know about climate change, future weather predictions, and the potential for flooding in the future.  That’s why the form only deals with the present and past of that specific property.  Many of our low bank waterfront homes already experience flooding at high tide in the winter months.  That, of course, must be disclosed if it happens to the seller’s house.  But future things are unknown to the seller and to all of us, really, so it would be impossible for them to deal with that on the disclosure.

We live in a state with active volcanos, regular earthquakes, and heavy metal in soils in most parts of the state. In addition, the Puget Sound is sort of ground zero for any enemy attack due to our many military installations. We are an area of landslides and erosion hazards as well as potential contamination from radioactive waste disposal sites and old factories filled with hazardous waste.  No seller should be required to talk about all of that.  That would be impossible to quantify.

The good news is that we live in an incredibly beautiful area with generally mild weather patterns and in a state that requires sellers to disclose all they know about their own property.  I think that’s really good.

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