It seems Toronto summer storms have taken on new force and those cute Hunter rain boots won’t quite do the trick anymore. People are bailing out big time, whether their cars get stuck on the DVP, they’re trapped under a bridge in a streetcar, or their home basement office now requires a commute via raft. There’s a reason all this flooding is becoming an issue, and it’s not just climate change! But should that scare you off from buying a home? Nah. Here we explain why GTA home buyers need to worry about floods, but also how to protect yourself so you can still find your dream home.
Toronto the Wet
Toronto’s history is steeped in wet, with a hidden 300 kilometres of waterways. These waterways lie in wait and swell when severe storms hit. As many as 41,500 residents are located in areas with poor overland drainage and aging infrastructure problems. Add to this the fact Toronto buried rivers and streams to create stormwater sewage lines way back when and it doesn’t take much for those lines to overflow. The final cherry on the proverbial sundae is storms increasing in power and downpours inundating an aging, fragile infrastructure that wasn’t designed to handle that much volume. The result? The sock soaking flooding we experienced in the summer of 2018.
Not Enough Green
Toronto has become a city of hardscaping with less and less green space to help absorb all that extra water mother nature throws at us. As a result, there’s an unmanageable amount of water either draining into our river systems or being funneled through the aging stormwater and sewer infrastructure. The city manages over 11,000 kilometres of water mains with a hefty price tag of about $7 billion looming as they try to repair aging infrastructure before the end of this decade.
Water Back Ups
All of these things contribute to a mess of dirty water with literally nowhere to go. This is why more neighbourhoods in Toronto are faced with wet or flooded basements when we experience one of our epic torrential downpours. As the rain pours down, in areas where stormwater and waste-water pipes are connected, water is forced to flow towards the treatment plant in pipes not quite up to the job. As a result, water meant to overflow into streams and rivers leading down to the lake are flooded and guess where the water ends up? In people’s basements. Unfortunately because of the connected pipes, this is some pretty toxic water. However, relatively speaking there are more areas NOT at risk of flooding. It’s just becoming trickier to predict what areas are next.
Let’s Hear it for Climate Change
We can’t leave climate change out of the mix. Experts estimate that if our city keeps outputting carbon at predicted rates, Ontario will see increases in temperature of about two degrees by 2050, and another four by 2080. That quadruples the number of days the humidex exceeds 40. We’re sweating just thinking about it. This also means we’ll experience 65% more summer rain with storms producing up to 166 millimetres in a single day. That’s not good.
Flood Vulnerable Areas
There are 41 “flood-vulnerable” areas in the GTA home buyers should worry about. Topping the list is Rockcliffe-Smythe, just west of the Stockyards. Homeowners here have experienced issues as far back as the mid-80s due to its proximity to the Humber River watershed. However, it’s not always about watersheds. For example in high end Bedford Park at Avenue Road and Lawrence, many homeowners have experienced flooding since the early 2000s due to uncapped sewer laterals. Following an onslaught of old home demolitions, failure to cap the laterals made it easier for water to find its way into homes. Let’s not forget DVP flooding. This is of course due to the Don River which also leaves areas around Broadview and Eastern vulnerable. Other areas of concern include Downsview homes north of the 401, especially near Jane and Wilson. Going further to the west, Dixie, and Dundas in Mississauga experiences issues as well. Many of the areas are suburbs much further out from the downtown core.
Flooding and the Buying Process
Although there are maps available to show areas of concern, the unpredictable nature of Toronto weather and infrastructure could create risks in areas not yet mapped. So your best defense is to ask pointed questions regarding flooding. This is important because home sellers and their agents have a duty of good faith and must answer questions honestly. When looking at maps such as areas the city is investigating for flood risks, it makes sense for us to ask these pointed questions to help establish if an issue already exists. As well, inspections don’t always show evidence of past flooding damage because the damage is often repaired. The law stipulates however, that sellers have an obligation to disclose what’s called “latent defects”. These defects are “not readily identifiable by a reasonable person doing an inspection of the property.” If an issue does occur and during repairs it’s clear there have been floods in the past, you do have legal recourse to sue the previous owners. As mentioned, home inspections don’t always spot flood issues. However, home inspectors will check for things such as the home drainage system and making sure the home has the required protection to keep water away from the house foundation.
Generally there are two types of extended flood coverage:
- Overland insurance: Protects against water that pours from streets
- Sewer backup insurance: Protects from flooding caused by overburdened sewers
If you’re purchasing a home in a flood zone, you’ll have to consider additional coverage. However, in Toronto, homes with repeat claims might turn out to be either uninsurable or have policies with low caps to barely cover the $43,000 average repair costs following a flood.
Toronto’s Subsidy Program
Toronto offers a $3,400 subsidy to cover installation of backwater valves and sump pumps as well as severance and capping of a home’s storm sewer or external weeping tile connection. So if the inspector finds these things aren’t installed, you can have the work done before or soon after you move in. Find out the details of the program by clicking here.
The Bottom Line
Flooding is tricky because it can be caused by a number of factors. However, understanding what areas are at higher risk, asking the right questions and insuring you include a home inspection helps reduce risk. You can also include extended flood coverage in your home insurance and take advantage of Toronto’s subsidy program.
Don’t let Toronto’s intense rainstorms scare you off from buying a home! If you’re ready to start your home search, we offer some of the best real estate agents Toronto offers. Give us a call at 416.291.7372 or fill out our contact form!
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