Q: If I filed a report with FEMA about the recent damage to my home from Hurricane Sandy, will those records be public and accessible to future home buyers when I look to sell? Alternatively, if they are not public, legally, do I need to disclose what kind of damage I experienced from Sandy even years later when I am ready to sell my home?
A: I do not believe the FEMA application and paperwork are confidential. In fact, as a public record, it is probably subject to a FOIL (Freedom of Information Act) request. As a general observation, the seller is not affirmatively or proactively required to disclose the FEMA related work or, for that matter, other work done on the house. However, if the prospective buyer inquires, the seller should not misstate or misrepresent the history. Additionally, New York State adopted the PCDA (Property Conditions Disclosure Act) which, if completed by the seller, contains questions concerning condition and history of the property. There are technical rules involving the obligation of a seller to complete the form, and consequences if they do not. Given the scope of work which may have to be performed, the homeowner must carefully and thoroughly review these issues with his/her attorney. If the reparative and replacement work is performed properly, disclosure of the history should not be an issue. In any event, if your entire neighborhood was affected by Superstorm Sandy, there’s not going to be much, if anything, to hide since it will likely be common knowledge.
Click here to view other ‘Ask the Lawyer’ Q&A prepared by Meyer Suozzi attorneys.