In recent years, there has been a drastic uptick in the frequency and intensity of rainstorms hitting New York State. Most recently, in 2021, Hurricane Ida hit New York bringing severe flooding in her wake and causing extensive and expensive property damage to the residents of Westchester County (and elsewhere). Scientists predict that the probability of flooding in New York State will continue to worsen due to increasing precipitation across the state, compounded by rising sea levels along the New York State coastline.
Since Ida, many property owners have rebuilt and are now leasing the property that previously flooded. Tenants may be unaware that they are leasing or renting property that may have a propensity for flooding during heavy rainstorms. As such, the Westchester County Board of Legislators has passed a new local law that aims to bridge that flooding information gap between landlords and tenants.
As of August 15, 2022, the new Westchester County Local Law, simply named the “Flood History Disclosure Law,” has gone into effect mandating landlords of residential and commercial property, to provide written notification to prospective tenants, or tenants to their prospective sub-tenants as the case may be, of whether the property is located in a FEMA-designated Special Flood Hazard Area or whether, to the landlord’s knowledge, damage has been caused to the property within the past ten years by flooding (the overflow of inland or tidal waters, rapid accumulation of runoff or surface waters, or the ponding of water due to heavy rainfall) at least once.
The Flood History Disclosure Form can be found on the Westchester County Board of Legislators’ website and provides a one-page, uniform method of communicating the required flood information to potential renters. Landlord, tenant (or sub-tenant, as the case may be) must acknowledge and sign the form prior to entering into a lease. In the event that a landlord does not comply with this law and the (sub)tenant sustains damage due to flooding on the property during the term of the lease, the landlord may be held liable by the tenant in a civil action for damages sustained.
This law may be amended based on a New York State bill that recently passed which would require disclosure of the flooding history in the case of residential leasing. As of the date of this posting, there is no word on any proposed amendments or information on how this County law would be affected by state law.
The experienced Transactional team at Cuddy & Feder is ready to guide landlords and tenants with respect to this and any leasing matters.