Strengthening California’s Hazard Disclosure Laws to Address Sea Level Rise Risks

August 29, 2023
Heather Dadashi 

The threat of flooding and erosion is increasing throughout the United States as a warming atmosphere makes precipitation events more extreme and contributes to sea level rise. This Pritzker Brief examines California’s existing real estate disclosure practices and suggests mechanisms to improve them to account for the accelerating risk of sea level rise, or SLR.

Inadequate disclosure laws have serious and costly consequences. The most effective approaches to real estate risk disclosure include specific references to physical risks, specific references to coastal regulations, and clear procedural disclosure requirements. This brief examines best practices employed by other states, including Hawai‘i, Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. These include requiring sellers to disclose whether their property lies in an area susceptible to SLR impacts, specifying relevant areas that may require permits for development, and instructing buyers to read notices carefully and refrain from signing until they fully understand the risks associated with their purchase. Based on this research, the report proposes several policy recommendations to strengthen California’s hazard disclosure policies. 

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