Supplemental Hazards: What They Are and Why an NHD Report Includes Them

Written by Will Caldwell

The NHD Report is an essential part of any California real estate transaction. Understanding whether a property lies in an area that is at high risk for fires, flooding or earthquake-related damage can significantly affect your insurance rates and the need for additional precautions to protect your property.

Quite often, whether your home lies in a disclosed hazard zone could affect your decision of whether or not to buy it. But while these natural hazards get most of the attention in an NHD report, they are far from the only potential issues these reports cover. Several additional items referred to as “supplemental hazards” are also typically included. 

These supplemental hazards can also greatly impact your quality of life, and your decision regarding whether you want to make a potential property your family’s new home. By paying attention to these supplemental hazards (in addition to Natural Hazard Disclosures), you can have confidence about where you choose to live. 

Radon Gas Exposure

Radon is a gas that occurs naturally. However, it has been linked with poor indoor air quality and even lung cancer. Unlike a flood or fire, radon doesn’t cause harm in a single catastrophic event. Long-term exposure occurs as radon seeps in through cracks in floors or gaps around service lines and is breathed in by the home’s inhabitants.

In the state of California, the risk for radon gas exposure can vary wildly. The EPA’s map of radon data shows that while many counties in California (primarily in the northern part of the state) lie in the lower-risk Zone 3, there are certain areas that lie in Zone 1.

However, just because a property lies in an area with a higher risk for radon exposure, doesn’t mean that the home is automatically a “high risk.” Modern homes are held to updated residential codes that emphasis radon-resistant techniques. You can also conduct radon testing in the home to confirm potential radon exposure.

Military Ordnance Area

Being in a military ordnance area doesn’t mean that your property is at risk of being hit by a rogue missile. However, it still indicates a potential safety hazard for your family. Military ordnance hazards apply when an area is part of a “Formerly Used Defense Site” (or FUD).

FUDS are properties that were once used by the U.S. Department of Defense as part of a military installation. Active military sites are not part of this potential hazard, nor are areas that are actively being restored. These properties contain potentially hazardous remnants of a military base or institution, such as unsafe structures and debris, industrial waste and exploded ordnances. 

Sites are given a score of one to five to determine the severity and probability of a hazard that could impact current property owners. A score of five means no action is required, while a score of one indicates an imminent hazard to property owners. Scores of two through four indicate varying levels of action that should be taken to evaluate and/or mitigate potential threats. 

Airport Influence Area 

Living close to an airport can be very convenient, especially if you travel a lot. But living too close to an airport can be a problem for homeowners.

As the County of Los Angeles describes it, “An airport influence area is the area which current or future airport-related noise, over flight, safety, and/or airspace protection factors may significantly affect land uses or necessitate restrictions on those uses. It includes airport owned property, Runway Protection Zones (RPZ), inner and outer safety zones and Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL) contours.”

Some people don’t mind living in an area with increased airport noise. Others are really bothered by it, and find it disturbs sleep and other activities. The severity of the issue will depend on your proximity to the airport, but it is worth considering before you buy.

Registered Sex Offenders

Megan’s Law came into being in California in 1996, requiring that the public be notified about the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhood. Similar versions of this law are now in place in every state across the country, and your NHD report addresses this important information as well.

Your NHD report will draw from information within the California Sex and Arson Registry so you are aware of potentially dangerous sex offenders living in the neighborhood where you are considering buying a home.

Naturally, this can be a deal breaker for many homebuyers, especially families with young children. Learning this information before you move into a neighborhood will help keep your family safe and secure.

Special Tax Zones

While not a hazard to your physical health, living in an area that is subjected to additional taxes can put a strain on your finances. California has several special tax districts in place to finance infrastructure projects such as parks, schools, and fire services improvements. These tax assessments are known as Mello-Roos.

Mello-Roos have been controversial ever since they were introduced. These bonds only affect the people who will directly benefit from the infrastructure improvement. Communities are able to pass bonds to raise funds for the projects they want.

The problem, of course, is that the additional tax assessment remains in place on all properties in the area until the bond debt (and its interest) are fully paid off. Being aware of how these additional taxes would affect you on a month to month basis will help you plan your budget and could determine whether you can actually afford a particular house.

Information Is Power When Buying a Home 

As this list of supplemental hazards reveals, there is more to your Natural Hazard Disclosure report than simply confirming whether or not it lies in a dam inundation zone or seismic hazard area.

By accounting for supplemental hazards that could influence your family’s safety or quality of life, you will have a full picture of whether a particular home or neighborhood is truly the right fit. Give your NHD report the attention it deserves to ensure that you make a purchase that will be good for your family for many years to come.