Obtaining Flood Insurance

It can be difficult to find insurance cover if you are within an identified flood risk area or your neighbourhood or property has suffered from flood damage.

The need for insurance
In most cases, flood insurance is part of your buildings and contents insurance. Property insurance safeguards your most valuable assets, your property and its contents. It covers damage to homes and businesses caused by a sudden, unexpected event such as fire, storm or flood. Mortgage providers and other lenders expect you to have buildings insurance in place to cover any property against which you secure a loan. Being unable to secure an insurance policy could have implications for your mortgage and could make it more difficult to sell your property.

If your property is flooded, buildings insurance usually covers the costs of drying out, repairing, and restoring your property and its fixtures and fittings. It also covers items such as the cost of removing debris, professional fees (e.g. legal fees, architects, surveyors) and other charges incurred as a result of the flood damage. Most buildings policies will cover the cost of alternative accommodation too. It can often take many weeks or months for flooded properties to be made habitable again. Contents insurance covers the cost of repair or replacement of damaged furniture, equipment, and other belongings. Business policies may include business interruption insurance to help protect income until the damage is repaired.

The availability of flood cover
Areas at risk of flooding may have higher premiums and excesses (the amount you must pay towards the costs of repair) to reflect that risk. Insurers do not guarantee to provide cover in all circumstances and some insurers may consider your risk to be unacceptable to them. The cost and availability of insurance may even vary within individual streets as different insurers will want to limit their exposure to claims from any one event.

Getting specialist help
If it has not been possible to obtain affordable cover through a normal insurance provider, there are specialists who may be able to help. Insurance brokers and other professional insurance intermediaries are able to negotiate with insurers and to arrange cover for more challenging cases. Some brokers and other intermediaries are experts in arranging insurance for properties which are considered to be at higher risk of flooding.

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA)’s ‘find a broker’ helpline can help you locate a flood specialist insurance broker – visit www.biba.org.uk.

The more information you can obtain and discuss with a specialist, the greater your chance of getting covered. You may be able to provide evidence, for example, that your property is situated above known or predicted flood levels in your area. A survey of your property may be necessary in order to assess the risk, including details of any flood protection measures which are planned or in place.

Insurance specialists could charge a fee for the services they provide but, if they do, you will be informed of any costs at the outset.

Flood RE
Flood RE is a re-insurance Scheme that makes flood cover more widely available and affordable as part of your home insurance.

Flood RE helps households at the highest risk of flooding and also provides information about taking action to reduce flood risk. Find out more at Flood Re - A flood re-insurance scheme.

 

Understanding the current flood risk to your property
Information on flood risk from rivers and the sea, taking account of flood defences is available online free of charge from the Environment Agency. You can also obtain an ’insurance related request’ letter, which will contain important information such as:

  • Whether the property is located in an area of flood risk from rivers or the sea that has a significant, moderate or low chance of flooding in any year.
  • The standard of protection provided by any flood defences in your area.
  • Details of any planned defences.
  • Records of any historic floods in the area.

It is important to consider risk from other sources of flooding, such as surface water or groundwater flooding and reservoir failure.

Damage caused by flooding. The image shows the level that the water reached on a white double door during the flood event.

What can be done to reduce the impact of flooding on your property?
Whatever your circumstances, it is recommended that you:

Water can get into a building in many different ways, even through the walls or up through the floor, depending on the nature of the flood and the construction of your property. It is not possible to make your property completely flood-proof but there are two main ways you can reduce the flood risk to your property:

  • Flood resistance measures – these are designed to stop the water getting in.
  • Flood resilient measures – these are designed to limit the damage caused by flood water that does get into the property and to reduce the time needed to get back to normal after a flood.

The first priority will be to stop flood water getting into your property. There are a growing number of flood products that help to keep flood water out of your home or business premises. When considering a particular flood product, check that it has been tested to industry standards by looking for the Kitemark symbol or equivalent accreditation.

In the event of deep or prolonged periods of flooding, water may overcome your best efforts at flood resistance. Making the inside of your property more resilient to floodwater can, however, limit the damage to your property and reduce the time taken to clean up and repair.

It is therefore strongly recommended that, prior to fitting measures, you arrange for an independent survey of your property by a suitably trained, independent professional with expertise in flood risk assessment. This will help you choose the products most appropriate to your property and personal needs. It is important to note that flood products are not designed to prevent groundwater flooding, which is likely to require more specialist solutions.

More information about flood protection measures for homes and businesses is provided by the Environment Agency guide Prepare your property for flooding.

What is a flood risk mitigation survey?
A flood risk mitigation survey can help you determine what can be done to reduce your exposure to flood damage and confirm that any existing flood measures have been fitted correctly by the installer. This type of survey not only provides an assessment of the flood risk to your property but also considers the ways in which flood water can enter and what can be done to prevent this or to limit the damage which might be caused.

A specialist insurance broker will discuss the findings of a flood risk mitigation survey with appropriate insurers and will be able to advise how the various options might affect the availability and terms of cover.

The following lists the key information that a flood risk mitigation survey should provide:

  • An assessment of the depth, frequency, duration, and type(s) of flood risk to your specific property.
  • An assessment of the elevation of the property thresholds (doorstep, air bricks, etc).
  • An assessment of how the water can get into the property.
  • Measures that can be taken to stop the water getting in.
  • Measures that can be taken to limit the damage caused.
  • Options for reducing the flood risk – each option should explain how much risk will remain following the work and include costs, specifications of the work involved and products that can be used.

The Blue Pages directory and the Flood Protection Association’s website provide details of companies that can provide both flood assessments and products.

Man filling out insurance documents.

TOP TIPS when seeking flood insurance:
Try to discuss any problems or concerns with your current insurer.

  • Contact a specialist insurance broker who has access to insurers that specialise in flood risk cover.
  • Contact a range of insurers to ask for a quote.
  • Consider investing in a flood risk mitigation survey.
  • Investigate flood products which would make your property more flood resistant.
  • Consider flood resilience measures which might be appropriate for your property.
  • Join a local flood action group.

Useful contacts and websites

A Homeowner’s Guide to Flood Resilience, containing information about flood resistant products, is available from www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk.

The National Flood Forum (NFF): An independent charity representing and supporting those affected by or at risk of flooding www.floodforum.org.uk.

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA): A general insurance intermediary organisation representing the interests of insurance brokers, intermediaries and their customers. Their ‘find a broker’ helpline can help you locate a flood specialist insurance broker www.biba.org.uk.

The Environment Agency: The public body responsible for protecting and improving the environment in England. For enquiries, including an ‘insurance related request’ letter, email: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI): Represents the majority of UK insurers and provides information and guidance on various flood insurance issues www.abi.org.uk

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS): A professional body for qualifications and standards in land, property and construction. Produces guides on a range of subjects including flooding www.rics.org/usefulguides. RICS can recommend a qualified surveyor in your local area via the ‘Find a Surveyor’ service.

Know Your Flood Risk Campaign: Aims to raise the profile of flooding and ensure consumers are not only aware of the risks they face, but also how to mitigate them. The ‘Homeowner’s guide to flood resilience’ is available on their website www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk

Flood Protection Association: Promotes the interests of manufacturers and installers of flood protection equipment. The website http://thefpa.org.uk points consumers to flood protection products for both domestic and commercial properties.

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