George P. Bush: Renters deserve to know property flood history

April 22, 2021

With fresh paint, new carpet and a welcoming facade, many apartments and rental homes in coastal Texas welcome eager tenants, but they also could contain more than potential residents bargained for — cracked walls, hidden mold and a history of flooding. What can state leaders do to help these Texans?

Legislators should support SB 314 and HB 531, which give renters the right to know about the flooding history of their leased property.

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) answered this question in a report published after Hurricane Harvey capturing lessons learned from helping Texans rebuild, which made recommendations to improve response and resiliency in future disasters. We found one of the major issues facing renters in coastal areas is the lack of transparency regarding the flood history of the rental unit. Currently, state laws do not require a landlord to disclose to potential renters that a home was previously flooded or sits in a floodplain.

Many homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey in flood-prone neighborhoods along the Texas Coast are still on the market for families searching for rental options amid the lack of housing stock. As the Houston Chronicle noted, after the catastrophic storm, homes were bought at rock bottom prices and flipped at enormous discounts in search of higher returns without any mitigation or elevation to prevent future flooding. According to the Houston Chronicle’s analysis of Harris County data, “of the 45,000 homes sold in the six months following the flood, at least 5,500, or one in eight, flooded during Harvey.”

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