Revised Fire Hardening and Defensible Space (FHDS) Disclosure Form from C.A.R.

Written by Will Caldwell

The California Association of REALTORs® (CAR) has updated its standard Fire Hardening and Defensible Space (FHDS) Disclosure Form to comply with updated regulations. Here’s what you need to know about the changes … 

What Has Changed

  • Certain advisory language has been taken out and put instead in the Wildlife Disaster Advisory (WDA).
  • Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 have been modified to explicitly state that applicable portions of the form need not be filled out if certain statutory conditions are not met.
  • Questions about the vulnerability of the home have been modified to reflect the “Are you aware …?” question formatting advised by TDS/SPQ.
  • The “Defensible Space” section now includes three new paragraphs. The first, Paragraph 3A, to identify whether or not the home is located in a local jurisdiction with its own defensible space regulations, which affects how the rest of the form should be filled out.
  • The second new paragraph, Paragraph 3B, allows the seller to disclose what (s)he knows about the property’s current state of defensible space compliance.
  • The third new paragraph, Paragraph 3C, includes subheaders that make it easier to determine whether or not the seller will be required to validate compliance or bring the property into compliance with state and/or local defensible space regulations.
  • Finally, a decision tree has been added to help users navigate the form and understand what they need to fill out in the new Paragraph 3.

Need-To-Know Info

What is the FHDS Disclosure Form?

The Fire Hardening and Defensible Space (FHDS) disclosure form is a standardized form promulgated by the California Association of REALTORs® to help home sellers comply with state and local laws regarding fire hardening and defensible space. 

The standard natural hazard disclosure (NHD) form only indicates whether or not the property is in an elevated fire severity zone as designated by CAL-Fire. If the property lies in a “high” or “very high” fire severity zone, the FHDS form must be added to the list of mandatory disclosures.

As of July 21, 2021, every seller of property to whom these regulations apply must provide documentation, or agree in writing to provide documentation, of compliance with FHDS regulations. 

What Is Fire Hardening?

Fire hardening is the process of protecting a home or structure against ignition in the event of a wildfire or forest fire.

Aspects of fire hardening include:

  • Building or fortifying a house fire-resistant building materials or applying a fire-retardant chemical treatment to flammable exterior surfaces. 
  • Using screens and other barriers to stop floating embers and firebrands from entering the structure and ignite it from the inside. Points of vulnerability include HVAC and laundry ducts, chimneys, and crawl spaces with access to the foundation. 
  • Keeping gutters and roofs free of flammable debris. 

What Is Defensible Space?

A defensible space is an area around the home, at least 100 feet from the structure in all directions, that has been modified to halt or slow down an advancing wildfire, rather than provide it with more fuel to expand rapidly. 

Slowing the fire down with defensible space may buy you time to evacuate in the event of a wildfire. It may even prevent the wildfire from ever reaching the structure itself. 

How do you create a defensible space?

  • Use fire-resistant plants in your landscaping. 
  • Scrupulously clear away any dead plants, leaves, and grasses that could ignite easily. 
  • Move propane tanks, wood piles, and other large stores of flammable material outside of that 100-foot radius, uphill from the structure.
  • Securing an adequate supply of water to the entire defensible space, including an independent water source. 

Who Must Comply with FHDS Regulations?

Not every house in California must comply with FHDS regulations and furnish an FHDS disclosure form as part of the sale process. The rule only applies to homes located in a fire hazard severity zone designated as “high” or “very high” by CAL-Fire. 

How Do I Comply with FHDS Regulations?

A seller has four options to comply with state FHDS regulations — two each, depending on whether or not they live in a city or municipal jurisdiction that has its own FHDS regulations. 

If there isn’t a local FHDS ordinance:

  • The buyer must agree to obtain documentation of compliance within 12 months after the close of escrow; or … 
  • The seller may provide the buyer with any documentation of compliance obtained within the past six months, as well as information about which agency the buyer can query to request a copy of that documentation. 

If there is a local FHDS ordinance:

  • The buyer may agree to comply with the local ordinance; or … 
  • The seller may provide the buyer with any documentation of compliance with the municipal regulation obtained within the past six months, as well as information about which agency the buyer can query to request a copy of that documentation. 

If needed, a third-party company can be hired to perform an AB 38 defensible space inspection to validate compliance with FHDS regulations. 

SnapNHD Updates and Benefits

SnapNHD is the only natural hazard disclosure company with a license to put the most up-to-date C.A.R. FHDS form into our online disclosure platform. 

We provide all the tools you need to easily determine whether or not you need to furnish an FHDS for your sale, and we help you fill it out and submit it.

At the bottom of our “Snapshot” page, you can clearly see whether or not your property is located in a “high” or “very high” fire severity zone and may require an FHDS form to close the transaction.

Our interactive user experience allows you to fill out a simple online questionnaire and then fills out the form for you based on your answers. It’s the only digital tool of its kind, and the feedback is excellent. Escrow officers and TCs love our reports, because they make their jobs easier and their closings smoother.

Finally, we have included local fire department contact info and applicable local defensible space ordinances into each report, saving you the time and headache of researching this information yourself. 

SnapNHD is the best tool available to easily furnish a mandatory FHDS disclosure form and close the sale. There’s really no contest.