Heavy rains can cause rivers to break their banks, overwhelm drainage systems and result in swathes of deep surface water. Rising sea levels, unusually high tides and storms can cause major floods in coastal areas. If you’re unprepared for flooding, it could be an expensive mistake. In this article, we give you some tips on protecting your property and point you toward the best flood insurance for your needs.
- How common is flooding and what are its costs?
- Is your home likely to flood?
- How to prepare for a flood
- Tips for protecting your home from flooding
- Does home insurance cover flood damage?
- Does landlord insurance cover flood damage?
- What should I do if my home has been flooded?
Flooding is an increasingly common problem. According to the second UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, some 1.8 million in the UK live in areas with a greater than 1 in 75 risk of flooding each year. If average mean temperatures rise by 2°C, this number is expected to rise to 2.6 million. It could soar even higher if there is more extensive development than expected in our floodplains.
The level of flooding in any given year depends on the weather events that take place. A study undertaken by a team at Bristol University estimates that floods cause £740 million in damage annually, up 1.4% since 1990. In bad years, this can be much higher. Environment Agency figures gauge the economic cost of flooding over 2015/16 as high as £1.6 billion. At a household level, the Association of British Insurers put the average cost of repairing a flood damaged home at £33,600 – a sum most people could not easily afford.
Some homeowners will have a good idea whether their home is likely to flood as this information will normally be included in the searches completed during the conveyancing process of purchasing a property.
That said, it’s quick and easy for anyone to check the flood risk of the area they live in. To do so, you can use the relevant online service for where you live:
You can also consult the following flood maps to see which areas are at risk of flooding:
How can I get flood alerts?
If you live in an area that’s at risk of flooding, it’s a wise idea to sign up for free flood alerts using the following services:
In addition, it’s sensible to keep an eye on weather reports and note any flood predictions or warnings.
If there’s the slightest chance your home could be affected by flooding, it’s essential to be prepared.
A good first step is to draw up a personal flood plan. This will help ensure you have the right measures and equipment to protect your property or minimise damage.
You can download flood plan templates from various sources, including the Environment Agency. These generally suggest the following:
- Preparing a list of useful contact numbers. These could include your local council, insurer, utility companies, doctor, and vet.
- Deciding which belongings and valuables to move to a safe place (usually upstairs or in a separate location). These could include valuables, car, furniture, and pets. Small valuables can be protected by placing them in sealable, waterproof bags.
- Being familiar with how to shut off your electricity or gas supply.
You may also want to identify people you could ask for help in an emergency. You could also offer to help vulnerable neighbours in the event of a flood.
Once you’ve got a flood action plan, you need to put together a flood kit. This should bring together essential items to help you if a flood strikes. These might include:
- Waterproofs and warm clothing / blankets
- Torch and batteries
- First aid kit / prescription medicines
- Food and water
- Portable charger(s) for mobile phones
- Food and supplies for babies and / or pets
Make sure everyone you live with knows where to find the flood kit and who they need to call in an emergency.
If your home is at high risk of flooding, you can take various steps to minimise or prevent damage. Some measures are straightforward and inexpensive, but others require more time and investment. Common precautions include the following:
- Installing barriers. You can put sandbags around the perimeter of your property to hold back flooding. In addition, you can attach flood boards to your doors and windows. You can also get special covers to seal off air bricks.
- Fitting non-return valves to toilets, basins, and sinks. These will prevent sewage from flowing back into your home.
- Modifying landscaping. You can adjust the landscaping around your home to encourage water to drain away from its foundations. Use mulch, rocks, or other permeable materials to help absorb water.
- Elevating appliances. Raise appliances like washing machines and tumble dryers to minimise the chance of damage during a flood.
- Waterproofing doors and windows. Apply waterproof seals and install flood-resistant doors and windows to prevent water infiltration.
- Raising electrical sockets. If you get an electrician to move them higher up the wall, they’re less likely to be affected by flooding.
- Sealing floors and walls. Ideally get downstairs floors replaced with concrete over a waterproof membrane. At the very least, apply waterproof paints or coatings to walls and floors to help prevent water infiltration.
- Buying a pump. To help you pump water out of your home during a flood.
You can get an idea of how much it costs to floodproof your home by visiting the National Flood Forum’s Property Protection Advisor. You simply have to enter your address and you’ll be able to download an instant appraisal report. This will include suggested measures for flood protection, broken down by average costs.
Good home insurance usually provides flood cover unless the property has previously flooded or is in a high flood-risk area.
That said, some insurers are signed up to FloodRe, a Government-backed scheme to which participating insurers contribute. This enables a wider range of properties to get affordable flood cover. You can check whether your home is eligible by using their online tool.
Home insurance covers the clean-up, including the cost of hiring and using drying-out equipment. It also covers the cost of alternative accommodation while the property is drying and reinstating the property. If you have contents insurance, this will cover replacing or repairing your belongings.
Usually, an insurer will expect you to take reasonable mitigation of loss precautions. For example, if you know your property is vulnerable to flooding, you should take measures if there’s a flood warning. These would generally include moving items upstairs, using sandbags to block up doorways and packing an emergency overnight bag should there be a need to evacuate the property at short notice.
None of these things will be required if your property hasn’t flooded before. However, following any flood loss, your insurer will expect you to take measures to help prevent future losses or help reduce the potential costs of damage. These might include installing flood barriers on exit doors, signing up for flood alerts, installing plasterboard horizontally rather than vertically, and moving ground floor electrical sockets higher up the walls. You may also have to install better drainage systems to cope with excess water.
It’s important, though, to understand the difference between flooding and escape of water, as the insurance cover and excess payable may differ.
Landlord building insurance generally includes flood cover. However, if a property is in a high flood-risk area, the insurer may decline to quote or will quote excluding flood cover.
Unfortunately, rental properties aren’t eligible for flooding insurance under the FloodRe scheme. However, Floodflash offers owners of commercial properties (including residential buy-to-lets) flood cover. To get cover, you’ll need to instal flood sensors. Once those sensors have been breached by flood water and it reaches a pre-selected level, you’ll automatically get a pre-agreed payment to help cover the cost of repairing the damage. Landlords can purchase this cover from an insurance broker like Alan Boswell Group.
If you have contents that need covering, then it’s a good idea to have landlord contents insurance. Tenants should have a separate policy for their own belongings.
If your home is flooded, take action to prevent or mitigate any further loss or damage. In particular, try to salvage as much property as possible by moving it upstairs or to another safe location. If necessary, carry out any temporary repairs to make the property safe and secure.
Also, contact your insurer as soon as possible to begin the claims process. Take photos before, during, and after any clean up. This is important because, depending on how many other properties have been affected by the flood, it may take several days before your insurers can send out a loss adjuster to assess the extent of the damage. Also, take photos of any items you plan to dispose of, like carpets and other soft furnishings.
As we’ve seen, flooding is a significant risk for many householders. It’s much better to take steps to prevent flood damage than to risk major damage and the loss of property and valuables. However, despite any precautions you may take, flooding can still happen (as can escape of water). This is why it’s important for homeowners and landlords to protect their properties with home insurance or landlord buildings insurance, plus suitable contents cover.
Alan Boswell Group’s award-winning insurance products give you the cover you need to deal with the unexpected. To ensure you’re covered against flooding, speak to a member of our team today on 01603 216399. They’ll be delighted to help you choose the right cover for your needs.