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New state law requires disclosure of property’s flood risk to buyers

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

New York is slated to become another state to require disclosing flood-risk information to prospective homeowners.

The Legislature passed a law earlier this year requiring property owners to disclose whether a property is located in a 100- or 500-year flood zone, based on FEMA’s flood insurance rate maps.

In 2020, the state of New York received a failing grade from the Natural Resources Defense Council for not disclosing flood information to homeowners.

Joel Scata, senior attorney for the council, described what other states can do to improve their rankings.

“States need to stop keeping homebuyers and renters in the dark about flooding,” Scata asserted. “They can do that by revising disclosure laws to make sure that sellers and landlords are required to provide information about a property’s flood history and risk.”

He argued it is the best way to communicate the flood risk of any property, because if a house floods once, it will flood again. Because climate change has increased flood risk across the state, funds from the state budget have been dedicated to bolster flood mitigation. The legislation would improve the failing grade, although its passage is contingent on Gov. Kathy Hochul signing it into law.

Houses harmed in one-time historic floods would fall under the purview of the law, such as those flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Scata added there are many reasons the information is not automatically provided.

“Often it could be just, it’s not clear if a home’s flooded before because the damage has been repaired, or it doesn’t seem like it’s close to a creek or the shore,” Scata explained. “You don’t think you’d be at risk of flooding. But, where it rains, it can flood.”

2022 report from the council found New Yorkers bought more than 7,600 homes with flood damage they were not told about. The damage totaled around $23.5 million.

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