KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Flooding from Hurricane Ian left almost everything that Polly Joy owned in ruins.
"As you can see down in there it’s starting to mold," she said as she showed us around her Kissimmee home.
When Joy bought her home in 1995, she says she was never told about any flood risk. "I don’t remember them ever saying anything about it being a flood zone," she said.
Her neighbor, Jaime Rosario, who we met a couple of doors down, said he did not know about the risks either. "If I would have known, I wouldn’t have bought it," Rosario added.
After reaching out to multiple agencies, FOX 35 News learned Florida does not require any disclosure of past flood damages to a homebuyer. As recent as this summer, FEMA released a report showing how states stack up when it comes to mandated flood risk disclosure requirements.
"In the state of Florida, there’s no statutory or regulatory requirement that a seller disclose to a homebuyer previous flood damage on a property. And that’s a huge issue, especially given the amount of flooding that occurs in the state," Joel Scata explains.
- Hurricane Ian: Search for victims done, Florida coast aims for recovery
- Florida man's photos show him rescuing disabled mom from Hurricane Ian floodwaters
- Florida man drowning in ditch saved by others who were hauling out flooded items
Scata is a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He has compiled data on flood disclosure requirements across the nation and is now pushing for changes to be made at the state and federal levels.
"Homebuyers should have a right to know whether or not a property they’re about to purchase has flooded before because a property that’s flooded once is likely to flood again," Scata added and encourages potential property buyers to do their research and ask a lot of questions. "Ask the seller if the property has flooded before – to ask the seller has there been any issues with flooding or do you have flood insurance. How much do you pay for the flood insurance?"
President of Orlando Regional Realtor Association Tansey Soderstrom told FOX 35 News, "When you’re working with your realtor, and you put an offer on a property, you’re going to have a home inspection, so the home inspection will let you know if it was wet or if there was water damage, they’re going to see that."
For more resources, there is the FEMA Flood Map Service Center where you can find regulated floodplain data. Individual counties also provide Geographic Information System Mapping.
Through Osceola County’s website, we discovered Polly’s home is in a high-risk flood zone. She says, "They should disclose that because honestly, nobody would buy a home that they knew was going to flood."
If you are a hurricane victim and in need of help, Florida Realtors offers these additional resources.