In a bid to address the state’s growing flood risks due to climate change, New Jersey has rolled out new and enhanced tools and technologies designed to provide prospective homebuyers and renters with information they need to make better informed decisions on where to live and how to protect their property from flood damage.
“As we continue to live with the impacts of climate change in our communities, it’s essential that we inform prospective homebuyers and renters of the risks in areas where they are looking to settle down,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “These new protections will enable prospective home buyers and renters to stay a step ahead when it comes to finding the safest residence possible for themselves and their families.”
The new tools come from New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette, Department of Community Affairs Acting Commissioner Jacquelyn A. Suárez, and Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Cari Fais.
The new and enhanced tools come as the state adopted a new flood risk disclosure law. Previously, sellers and landlords were under no obligation to disclose a property’s flood history to potential buyers and tenants or inform them if the property was located in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Hazard Zone Area. Now, under the new law, sellers and landlords must make those disclosures prior to the signing of sales contracts, leases, and lease renewals.
To assist individuals with meeting the FEMA Flood Hazard Area disclosure requirements, the Department of Environmental Protection developed the Flood Risk Notification Tool. According to the state, the online tool enables users to search properties by mailing address to identify whether the property overlaps with the FEMA Special or Moderate Flood Hazard Areas.
Users can also view additional flood risk information that is not required for disclosure but that provides a fuller picture of a property’s flood risk, including information on sea-level rise projections of three feet (likely by 2070) and five feet (likely by 2100).
Additionally, the tool offers users the ability to view a property’s flood risk using the map legend and sidebar or request a detailed flood report to be emailed to them. The report includes the property’s FEMA flood zone information to satisfy the new disclosure requirements as well as a description of what FEMA flood zones mean and how they are determined.
The Department of Community Affairs expanded its available digital resources by adding a model notice on its website that can be used by landlords to inform their tenants of the flood risk of rental properties. The model notice contains questions about the flood risk of the property and space for landlords to answer yes, no, or unknown, based upon the landlord’s actual knowledge. The online resource also provides renters with basic information about flood insurance available to renters through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and about the effects of climate change on flood risks in New Jersey.
“The facts are clear – precipitation and flooding are getting worse as a result of climate change,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “Too often, buyers and renters are unaware of the risks they face and make important decisions on where to live without any knowledge of a property’s flooding history or potential. These new flood disclosure requirements and DEP’s Flood Risk Notification Tool will provide the information they need to protect their financial investments and the safety of their families, at the same time enhancing New Jersey’s climate resilience.”