Floods and housing
This month Covid-19 takes a back seat to the new disaster of the extra-ordinarily wet weather around the NSW coast and Sydney. The ABC discussed insurance premiums for properties in and around flood prone areas and where not to build, buy or rent. In respect to a potential insurance figure of $30k per annum for affected properties, the article quotes The chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia, Andrew Hall, as saying, “If you live in a very high-risk area where your entire house could be flooded on a regular event then, yes, it’s probably likely that’s what you’d pay.”
This then potentially includes large areas of the whole Nepean and Hawksbury flood plain. A story in the Guardian states about 70,000 people live in affected areas, and that the State government is also seeking to increase the population to 200,000 by 2050. An interesting point is made that increased development reduces the amount of area where the ground can naturally absorb water, as hard ‘impervious’ surfaces such as bitumen and concrete increase runoff, thus potentially exacerbating the ‘bathtub effect’. In other words, more homes = (potentially) worse floods.
The bathtub effect is explained by another ABC article. In a nutshell, a bathtub is filled by turning on the taps and causing a restriction in the outflow (ie putting in a plug). The Sydney basin may not have a plug per se but there are several points where the waterways are severely restricted, which is in effect acting like a plug by restricting the natural flow of water out to the ocean. Apart from other things, the greater the amount of runoff (due to artificial surfaces), the greater the amount of restricted water will get backed up.
On a similar topic, Domain discussed the rights of renters should their property become flooded, and urges them to get in touch with their agents or landlords immediately. The bottom line? David Gray, chief executive of a Port Macquarie real estate, is quoted as saying, “If a property is uninhabitable the rent stops straight away.” He also added that a rent reduction can also be negotiated for partial water damage.
In the same article, Tenants’ Union of NSW chief executive Leo Patterson-Ross is quoted however, as saying that, “This is very situation-dependent and people should seek advice.” He also advises that negotiations should be done in writing or by appointment (rather than, say fronting up to the real estate and making a scene when demands can’t be immediately met). Mr. Patterson also notes that a tenant can break a lease immediately if a property becomes partially or wholly inhabitable.