USA - Living In Harm's Way: Why Most Flood Risk Is Not Disclosed

Five years ago, the Obbink family decided to buy a house in Virginia Beach, Va.

Kerrie Obbink led the charge because her husband, Steve, was an active-duty member of the Navy. That was why they had moved from Connecticut to Virginia in the first place. Kerrie started looking for houses that were in their price range, and where she could imagine raising their children.

It didn't take long to find a place that seemed right. "He liked the standalone garage," she remembers, "and there was a park across the street with playing fields, which was nice."

The Obbinks pooled their savings and made an offer on the house. That started the wheels of the homebuying process turning: They put down a deposit, scheduled inspections, got approved for a mortgage and moved into their one-story house in fall 2015.

One year later, their house flooded.

The house had also flooded less than a decade earlier, and it was in a flood plain. The federal government knew both of those things — the Federal Emergency Management Agency keeps track of flood insurance claims and publishes flood maps that states and cities use to make planning decisions. But no one told the Obbinks they were moving into harm's way, because no one was obligated to: not their real estate agent, not the seller, not the inspector. Or any government agency, or the real estate website that listed the property.

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