In the first installment of this blog series, we looked at evidence that suggested county, city, and federal government officials acted negligently by failing to enact beneficial regulations surrounding the housing developments made within the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. In the second and final blog on the issue, we will discuss the possible negligence of development companies in building homes in reservoirs and flood plains.
Putting Profit Over People
Home developers have been known to thrive in grey areas of the law. In Houston, Hurricane Harvey uncovered multiple scenarios where developers were less than honest concerning the risks and threats that buyers faced in purchasing some Harris County homes. Such developers pulled a variety of tricks to get Houston homeowners to commit to buying properties that were at risk of flooding while having no knowledge of the threat.
One developer built a few levees near 2012 developments to designate new homes as “no flood-risk” areas. This designation accomplished two things for developers.
First, developers were no longer legally required to tell citizens that their homes were at risk of flooding.
Second, developers were able to tell homeowners that they had no need to buy flood insurance.
While holding or having flood insurance may not be a big deal for some citizens, for others, this designation makes the difference between buying a home in this community or another one. Often, buying certain coverages is mandatory to live in specific homes. The need for insurance will often create fear in an individual concerning the purchase of a home. When people are told that they do no not have to legally obtain a certain type of insurance, this statement acts as a security blanket for homeowners who believe that their home is now “not at risk.” Therefore, if a family is worried about flooding issues and they see that one home is not a “mandated insurance residence,” they may feel compelled to buy this home over another home that requires flood insurance.
The homes considered “flood risk free” were inundated during Hurricane Harvey. While developers told future residents that they did not need insurance, they, in fact, did. One Houston resident living in the community claimed, “This neighborhood should have never been built. They put our family at risk; they put our children at risk.”
Hiding the Flood Risks from Residents
One other scheme used by Houston developers to hide flood risks from residents was stashing the flood warning in the rarely looked at plats. Plats are pieces of land that are drawn to scale and show the divisions of the land. Many Houstonians whose homes flooded were unaware that their home was a flood risk. When the floodwaters receded and homeowners demanded answers, many developers pulled out the plats of the property to show that homeowners bought land that was prone to flooding. While potentially legal, there is no doubt that this practice is, at best, questionable. Home developers know that incoming residents are unlikely to look at something like a plat before buying a home. So developers have used plats and other obscure documents to protect their development sales from rational fears by misleading residents.
Helping Houston Residents Recover
At Arnold & Itkin, our goal is to hold insurance companies accountable to Harris County homeowners. We fight for families who have lost everything due to the flood and who cannot move on with their lives because their insurance company is refusing to payout their claims. We stand with homeowners against injustice, and will do everything we can to make your insurance situation right in the eyes of the law.
If you need insurance help, call (888) 400-2101 for a free consultation.