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Disclosing & Accounting for Seismic Hazard Zones in California

A few months ago, we discussed soil liquefaction (the failure of water-saturated soil) in regard to building on areas of landfill. This month we will go into more depth about certain statutory precautions the state of California has taken to counter the structural damage that can occur when possible soil liquefaction is not properly addressed by designers, developers, builders, and/or engineers.

California’s Natural Hazards Disclosure Act requires sellers of real property to provide prospective buyers with a “Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement” when the property that is being sold lies within one or more state-mapped hazard areas, including seismic hazard zones. Seismic hazard zones are regulatory zones within the state of California that encompass areas prone to liquefaction and earthquake-induced landslides, including Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, and Ventura counties.

Being located within a designated zone means that the state has concluded it is likely that weak soil and/or rock may be present beneath the property. If proper precautions are not taken during land preparation (grading) and/or construction, severe structural damage may occur upon the failure of weak materials.

In cases involving undeveloped property, a site-specific investigation by a California-licensed engineering geologist and or civil engineer must be conducted to determine if a significant hazard exists at the proposed location(s) for building construction. If a hazard is discovered, the geologist and/or engineer should recommend measures to reduce the risk of liquefaction to an acceptable level. Only once such an investigation occurs can a parcel be subdivided or developed.

In California, the government takes the responsibility that goes along with building and land development very seriously. By imposing legal obligations on land developers, the result is not only to protect buyers’ safety but also to protect their financial investment, as better construction practices are necessary to meet statutory requirements. If developers, builders, or engineers fail to act with the appropriate level of care as established by law and industry standards, they may be liable for resulting damages.

Professional Engineers Providing Investigation Services & Expert Testimony

If your home or property has sustained damage because a seller, developer, or engineer failed to disclose and/or account for a seismic hazard or liquefaction, contact Engineering Expert Witnesses for a free case evaluation today. Pierre Handl P.E. evaluates structural damage and disasters in California and nationwide, providing expert testimony regarding fault and liability.

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