New York Real Estate Law Update Provides Improved Flood History Transparency for Buyers – Chronogram

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As the Hudson Valley and Catskills begin to experience more frequent and intense high water events, knowing a property’s flood history before buying a home is becoming more important than ever. This March, New York State stepped up to help give buyers full transparency into a property’s flood history by significantly updating the New York State Property Condition Disclosure Statement (PCDS)—a move that will likely cause a pivotal shift in residential real estate transactions.

“Aimed at providing prospective homebuyers with enhanced insights into flood-related aspects of a property, this change carries profound implications for both buyers and sellers alike,” says Jessica M. Mahoney, Esq., a partner at Walden-based J&G Law who concentrates in residential and commercial real estate. “Gone is the provision allowing buyers to opt for a $500 credit in lieu of a completed PCDS, an option previously present for this disclosure.”

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The Property Condition Disclosure Act mandates that sellers of residential real property furnish such disclosure statements to buyers or their agents before the execution of a binding contract of sale. According to Mahoney, seven new questions have been incorporated into the PCDS, specifically addressing the property’s flood status and history. In particular, she notes that sellers are now obligated to divulge whether the property falls within a FEMA-designated 100-year or 500-year floodplain; the property’s compliance with federal flood insurance requirements; and its history of flood insurance.

“It’s crucial to recognize that the PCDS does not constitute a warranty from the seller or any representative agent,” says Mahoney. “Rather, it serves as a disclosure of information, prompting buyers to conduct independent inspections and environmental tests, as well as review public records relevant to the property. Any knowingly false or incomplete statement by the seller on this form may render them liable to claims by the buyer, both before and after the transfer of title. A seller could be held liable if the seller knowingly misrepresents or knowingly lies or presents false info on the PCDS.”

According to Mahoney, while exemptions from disclosure requirements exist, most transactions will require sellers to complete the PCDS.

“Importantly, the new legislation preserves the roles and responsibilities of real estate brokers and agents concerning the PCDS. They remain duty-bound to inform sellers promptly about their obligations to complete the PCDS prior to entering into a residential real estate transaction,” she says. “This regulatory shift aligns with a broader national trend wherein numerous states have enacted laws mandating sellers to furnish buyers with comprehensive information regarding a property’s structural integrity and other pertinent features.”

For those navigating the New York real estate market, familiarity with the revised PCDS document on the New York State government website is essential. “Armed with this knowledge, both buyers and sellers can navigate transactions with greater transparency and confidence, fostering a more equitable real estate landscape for all parties involved,” Mahoney says.

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