Many communities in Westchester County have a long history of dealing with the serious impacts of flooding after large storms - flooding which may result in serious property damage or loss of life. Due to climate change, these storms are becoming more frequent and devastating. Oftentimes, prospective tenants in flood prone areas are left in the dark when it comes to the propensity of the flooding of the property they are renting or looking to rent. To combat this, Westchester County has adopted legislation which requires those looking to rent property to provide a Flood History Form to any and all prospective tenants. This new law goes into effect today, August 15.

County Executive George Latimer said: “This is a simple form which can save tenants a complex headache. As the cliché goes, knowledge is power. Providing greater information to prospective tenants can help them protect their property, and lives, when the forecast calls for a major storm.”

Westchester County has often experienced major flooding, most recently due to the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which caused massive property damage and, sadly, loss of life in some cases. All properties are subject to flooding. The Flood Insurance Rates prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency show the relative risk associated with different areas of a community, from areas of low risk to areas identified as Special Flood Hazard Areas, commonly referred to as the 100-year floodplain. However, about 40% of all flood insurance claims come from areas outside of those Special Flood Hazard Areas. Renters are often overlooked when discussing the impacts from flooding.

A landlord’s property insurance will not cover a renter’s personal belongings, and many renters often don’t have insurance for their belongings. Renters may also may have health issues that require electric-powered medical equipment or may have mobility issues making it difficult to relocate quickly during an emergency or to relocate in the event the property they are renting is damaged. The Board of Legislators proposed and Latimer signed this Local Law (Chapter 581) to help inform and protect renters about potential impacts from flood damage and what they can do to protect themselves.

The form, along with a copy of the Law and some brochures from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be available on the County Department of Planning’s website.

Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond said: “Our Department is here to serve the people of Westchester and this new law gives us another tool to do so. Flooding can have a major impact on the life and well-being of a tenant, and equipping them with the understanding of what could happen can help residents better plan for emergencies.”

If anyone has any questions about the form or the law, they are encouraged to reach out to the County Department of Planning at (914) 995-4400.