In November 2011, Hurricane Sandy struck and left a wake of problems New York City is still struggling to recover from. Yet even in areas that showed themselves vulnerable, the appetite for condos and co-ops has not diminished.
Buyers and their real estate attorneys need to be more alert to potential risks and costs such areas present.
The following checklist was compiled by Adam H. Stone, Esq., a partner in the law firm Regosin, Edwards, Stone & Feder.
1) Did Sandy damage the building? If so, has the damage been properly repaired by professionals?
Be sure the Department of Buildings has signed off on repairs. Find out exactly how and where the building was damaged. Hiring a qualified inspector would be a wise investment.
Was the damage covered by insurance? If not, residents might be faced with an assessment or incur future maintenance/common charges.
What are the building’s owners doing to address its vulnerabilities and safeguard against other weather extremes that might occur? Discover how much that might cost you, as a resident. Investigate how well the property management or owners performed during Hurricane Sandy.
Did they keep residents informed and organized? Did they prepare in advance for emergencies and evacuation? An attorney might be able to gain insights from board minutes. You could also Google news articles, blogs and social media feeds for more information.
2) Is the building in a FEMA-designated flood zone?
In addition to the flood insurance such a building must carry, your bank might require that you purchase flood insurance, even if your apartment is on an upper floor. If you do purchase flood insurance, it’s important to understand your coverage. Be sure that maximum limits and temporary housing are covered; they seldom are.
FEMA’s flood maps haven’t been updated for a century and much of the recent damage occurred beyond them. Now, because of Hurricane Sandy, these designated flood zones are being reallocated. If the building you’re interested in has experienced flooding or appears susceptible, be sure that it’s adequately insured against storm damage; if not, the cost of such an eventuality may have to be shouldered by residents. In such case, even if your apartment were on the 15th floor, you might have to help pay for common areas to be repaired, such as gym or laundry facilities in the basement, HVAC systems, etc.
It’s recommended that you speak to an insurance agent or risk management specialist if you have any concerns or doubts.
3) Which NYC evacuation zone is the building in?
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management has designated three evacuation zones in low-lying and coastal regions, based on storm-surge threats. Unlike FEMA’s, New York City’s evacuation zones bear no insurance consequences. It’s your responsibility to decide how much you’re willing to be affected in the event of a future temporary evacuation.
As you can see, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has created many new issues of concern when buying or renting apartments in New York City. It pays to remain aware and vigilant.