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The Effects Of Rising Sea Levels On Florida Beachfront Real Estate


The June collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside has placed an exclamation point on an issue that many Florida realtors have been worrying about for years – namely, the question of the effects of coastal erosion and rising sea levels. While this issue predominantly affects waterfront property, erosion in particular can play a significant role in the value of inland property as well. If you are thinking of investing in Florida real estate, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics of this problem.

Sea Levels Rising Creates New Problems

Data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has consistently forecast a serious rise in sea level in the next 30 to 40 years (the timespan of a standard mortgage, incidentally) – as much as a foot by 2050. South Florida would encounter the most issues, but cities in central Florida like Tampa and Orlando would also be affected – in particular, Pinellas and Manatee Counties are two of the counties at highest risk from increased coastal flooding in the future.

Increased flooding does not only affect the infrastructure around a home; rather, it can affect everything from the integrity of the house itself to the insurance rates paid by those who live there. While the Florida legislature has begun to enact programs to increase the frequency of sea-floor mapping and to award grants to local governments, these do not, at least in theory, address the potential issues for individuals who are looking to become Florida homeowners.

How Wide Is The Duty To Disclose?

With a standard Florida real estate transaction, a seller must disclose what they know of any defects or issues in the property in certain situations. While it is not required in Florida that the seller formalize these disclosures in writing, a duty does exist as codified in Johnson v Davis (1985): if a seller knows facts (1) “materially affecting” the value of the property, which are (2) “not readily observable” and are (3) unknown to the buyer, the seller must disclose those facts.

It remains to be seen whether sea level rise or erosion on the property would fall under that duty, depending on the specific situation of an individual property. One might think that it would be in the seller’s best interests to disclose such factors, lest they be accused of fraudulent concealment of a material fact, but some might choose not to if they deem it negligible. Either way, it is generally in the buyer’s best interests to do all possible due diligence before entering into any contract.

Contact A Tampa Real Estate Attorney

While there is still time before Florida begins to see serious effects from rising sea levels, anyone interested in trying to purchase a home in Florida should begin by learning all they can about the property before pulling the proverbial trigger. If you have questions or concerns about a specific real estate transaction, attorney Alicia Seward and the Seward Law Office are ready and willing to try and assist you. Call a Tampa real estate attorney today to schedule a consultation.



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