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Kaz Fantone / NPR

USA - What to Know About Flooding Before You Move

When you start looking for a new place to live, there are a lot of factors that you probably consider. Flood risk should be one of them.

As the Earth gets hotter, flooding is becoming more common and severe in most of the United States. More than 10 million apartments and houses have a substantial risk of flooding in the next 30 years — from sea level rise and storm surge along the coasts, and heavy rain and river flooding inland.

Because the climate is changing, many places that flooded a little in the past will flood a lot in the future, putting lives and property at enormous risk. It's already happening: One-third of the federal disaster money distributed after floods goes to people who live outside official flood zones, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Floods are the most deadly and expensive natural disaster in the United States. They can cut you off from emergency services. A flooded home can make you sick when mold grows in its walls, or when you're exposed to polluted water. Studies have found that the cost of flood damage can derail higher education by displacing students as well as wipe out savings.

And yet, in most parts of the country, it is easy to move into a flood-prone building and not even know you're in harm's way. Despite the risk, 21 states do not require that any information about flooding be disclosed to potential home buyers, and the vast majority of tenants in the U.S. receive no flood-related information at all.

So, what questions should you ask about flood risk before you move? And how easy is it to find answers? NPR talked to flood experts and put together this guide. For a downloadable PDF, click here.

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