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White Plains, NY — The Westchester County Board of Legislators is moving to protect renters in the face of the increasing dangers of flooding as a result of climate change.

On Monday night the Board unanimously passed a measure to require property owners to disclose the flood history of a building prior to the signing of a lease with a tenant. The measure applies to both residential and commercial leases.

Legislator Catherine Parker (D -Mamaroneck, Rye, Larchmont, New Rochelle, Harrison), who sponsored the measure, said, "In my district we've seen the devastating impact of climate change-related flooding, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. But the devastation cuts across the County -- from the Sound Shore to the Hudson -- and the danger continues as the number and severity of storms increase. This law will create transparency to protect renters -- the way buyers are protected by disclosure requirements -- and provide renters with a safety net by giving them a remedy to recover damages they may suffer if a landlord fails to disclose the flood history of the property they are renting."

Legislator Colin Smith (D -Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown), Chair of the Board's Legislation Committee, said, "This law creates no special burden on property owners other than to tell the truth and be transparent about a property's flood history, creating a fair and open playing field for renters. It will protect both renters and property owners, who can be assured that they will not be liable for any damages as a result of failing to disclose a property's propensity for flooding."

Legislator Tyrae Woodson-Samuels (D -Mount Vernon), Chair of the Board's Housing Committee, said, "The impact of flooding can be severe and sudden -- as we saw recently in my home town of Mount Vernon. But the potential for future flooding can lurk unseen in the months and years between storms. Unfortunately, that doesn't make the threat less dangerous or devastating to life and property, when floods do come, and we know it is happening more and more frequently due to climate change. Renters deserve to know if a property they're considering is prone to flooding so they can make fully informed decisions about leasing. I thank Legislator Parker for pushing through this protection a matter of law for Westchester renters."

Under the measure, the County's Planning Department will create a Flood Disclosure Form, that will be available on the Department's website, for property owners to use to comply with the notification requirement.

If flood history is not disclosed before a lease is signed, and a renter subsequently suffers flood damage, the law will give the renter the right to sue to recover damages.
Landlords must make the disclosure if the property has flooded at least once during the ten years immediately preceding the date of the lease and has caused flood damage to any portion of the premises. If a renter sublets they property, they will also be responsible to disclose the information.

The measure will apply only to leases signed after the law becomes effective August 15. More on the legislation can be found at https://bit.ly/3mIg3Df