In the year In 2021 alone, New Yorkers purchased 7,645 homes with previous flood damage for a total of more than $23.5 million. The state’s current flood declaration law contains a loophole that “piles coverage on buyers,” according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Thousands of New York homes with a history of flooding have been resold — and could cost their new owners tens of thousands of dollars in future damages, according to a study released Tuesday.
In the year In 2021 alone, New Yorkers bought 7,645 homes that had already suffered flood damage for more than $23.5 million, according to the report. The study was conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and consulting firm Milliman.
New York local and state laws do not require sellers to disclose flood history or risk to buyers. In fact, New York’s property condition disclosure law provides a loophole for sellers to pay a buyer $500 in exchange for releasing certain details about the property’s history.
For homeowners, the cost associated with flooding can be more significant. In New York state, where the average home has an expected annual loss of $104, the authors found that previously flooded homes had 30 times that amount.
“The purpose of the report is really to draw attention to how unsafe and unfair it is to keep homebuyers in the dark about flood damage caused by weak disclosure laws,” said Joel Scatta, an attorney for the NRDC.
The organization analyzed flood declaration laws across the country and found that the strongest were in the states of South Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi, which received “A” grades in regulating flood history declarations. Comparatively, New York’s F.
“When it comes to New York’s disclosure law, it piles up the standard on buyers[s] To find out about the property’s flood risks or past flood damage,” says the rating explanation.
While New York’s flood disclosure laws are weak, Zillow says it is one of only four states that have laws requiring sellers to report an attack or sudden movement.
In June, New York state lawmakers passed a measure that would amend real estate law so that landlords are required to disclose flood history and risk to tenants. If a property is located in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood plain or has experienced a flood in the past, and flood insurance is not included in the tenant’s insurance policy, they must now include it in the lease.
The measure passed by the state assembly on the last day of the legislative session, Gov. Kathy Hochul is waiting for signature.
But for the sale of the house, such steps are not seen. In October, City Limits reported on the challenges buyers and tenants can face in learning about a property’s flood history in a comprehensive official database. Experts suggested piecemeal methods, such as checking for water-related violations such as mold, leaks and peeling paint, but noted the limitations of such methods, especially when early tenants report those conditions.
The tech company ClimateCheck offers a free report on a given address, which shows the risk of flooding and heavy rains and other climate-related threats like drought and heat, but uses only regional data to avoid comprehensive flood history.
As the impact of climate change progresses, home ownership costs may increase. The average flood cost for homeowners in New York over the course of a 30-year loan will be more than $93,000—if so Measures have been taken to limit temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Absent such aggressive decarbonization efforts, the state’s homeowners could see their mortgages drop by $188,683 over those three decades, the report estimates.
“Buying a home that has been flooded in the past, especially in an era of climate change, can be very risky for a homebuyer,” Scatta said. “And that’s why it’s so important to have as much information as possible to make an informed decision.”
Liz Donovan is a US Corps member reporting.