Wednesday, October 31, 2007

After the landslides and fires, come the lawsuits

The poor victims! Must have been the city's fault, yessir! Leaky water pipes, city cigarettes, whatever. Fires, landslides, and earthquakes, there's always somebody to sue! Not that it has anything to do with leaky swimming pools, or drowning green lawns in water. Everybody has a right to build a house in a tinderbox, on an unstable slope, in a sag pond, down in a floodplain, on a filled swamp, etc.

1 comment:

R&L said...

According to legislative findings and geologic investigations, landslides in Western North Carolina are serious and determinable threats to lives and property.

In February 2005 the state passed the Hurricane Recovery Act. The General Assembly found: Hurricanes Frances and Ivan wrought havoc upon Western North Carolina impacting the region on a scale not experienced before in that area of the State. The President issued two federal disaster declarations for the Western Region of the State. During Hurricane Ivan, the community of Peeks Creek was devastated by a debris flow triggered by heavy rains. The debris flow traveled speeds as great as 33 miles per hour for two and a quarter miles from the top of Fishhawk mountain. Five persons were killed and 15 homes destroyed by the flow that was estimated to be several hundred feet wide and up to 40 feet high. Other communities that were particularly hard hit by landslides include the Starnes Creek area in Buncombe County, the Little Pine area in Madison County, the White Laurel community in Watauga County, and the Bear Rock Estates in Henderson County. Further...people could not know the landslide risks associated with their housing location because such maps are not readily available. The state needs to...prepare landslide mapping for the region so that homes may be built in safe areas.

Extensive studies by the North Carolina Geologic Survey show that much of the salable land in Western North Carolina is susceptible to landslides. These areas include: steep slopes, usually greater than 30 degrees, embankments or fills, cut or excavated slopes, hillside depressions or hollows near streams and springs, eroded or undercut streams or river banks, areas below steep mountain slopes, areas on hills or mountainsides where runoff accumulates, disturbed or modified slopes on mountainsides, areas where roads cross drainage or streams on mountainsides.

Western North Carolina Realtors are currently marketing and selling this "unmapped" and potentially unsafe slope property to buyers who have no knowledge of the personal and financial risks. Investors receive no fair warning either in advertising or sales contracts that slope failures are an ever present threat to real estate values. Unless Realtors are legally compelled to disclose these significant risks, landslides will remain a well protected industry secret.

Anti-fraud statutes are clear. It is illegal to profit by schemes or tricks, by issuing untrue statements, by failing to disclose material facts, or by participating in deceitful and fraudulent business practices.

What isn't clear is why the Western North Carolina real estate industry is allowed to conceal material facts from their clients. How can Realtors offer and sell hazardous land as a "no risk" investment? This legal question can only be answered by Roy Cooper, Attorney General of North Carolina.
Lynne Vogel/