With many landlords living some distance from their property and many tenants occupying property for short lengths of time, it is common for one or both parties to be unaware of their flood risk until it is too late.
In its 2018-19 flood campaign, the Environment Agency found that flat owners, 18-24 year-olds and renters were the least likely to think they were at risk of flooding.
However, being aware of this risk and taking steps to prepare for flooding are vital to reduce the impact of a costly, disruptive and potentially life-threatening situation later on.
In the past, a lack of preparedness has left many Calderdale landlords having to fund expensive repairs, waive rent payments and pay for alternative accommodation for their tenants whilst repairs are undertaken. This can be a lengthy process when tradespeople are in short supply after flooding, and the tenant may take the landlord to court if these duties are not fulfilled.
Meanwhile, tenants have suffered avoidable stress and damage to their possessions and business stock and equipment because they are uninformed and underprepared.
Reducing the risk of flooding
To reduce these risks, both landlords and tenants should:
- Check their flood risk even if they have already done so previously, as the Environment Agency regularly updates its flood zone maps as modelling provides improved insights.
- Be mindful of the risk of surface water and flash flooding, even if the property is located away from a river and outside the identified flood zones. Flash flooding is becoming increasingly common as climate change takes effect.
- Sign up for free flood warnings, which will alert landlords when river flooding is possible/occurring and give tenants vital time to prepare when an alert is issued. Other possible triggers for action include Met Office weather warnings, river level data, and information from the local community/flood group.
Landlords are advised to:
- Inform tenants of their flood risk and encourage them to plan ahead for possible flooding. Preparation is a vital step in reducing damage to the property and their possessions.
- Get a surveyor to help find the most effective property-level flood protection solutions. The Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a list of professional chartered surveyors that can be browsed by postcode.
- Take steps to reduce the damage caused by floodwater entering the property. Positioning electrical and plumbing services at high levels and using building materials that will not be affected by water will reduce the costs and time taken to repair the property after flooding.
- Consider installing measures to help prevent floodwater from entering the property, such as flood gates, air bricks and non-return valves. They should also show tenants how to deploy these if required.
- Check, test and maintain flood protection products in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If repairs or adjustments are needed and the landlord is uncertain on how to do them, they should contact the installer who fitted them.
Tenants are advised to:
- Keep an up-to-date flood plan. This can remind them to store sentimental items and important documents upstairs; and move valuable items to safety, switch off gas, electric and water, and roll up carpets, line doors and raise furniture where safe to do so in the event of a flood. A template can be found at www.gov.uk/prepare-for-flooding/future-flooding.
- Keep a flood pack containing essential items such as a list of useful contacts, clean water and prescription medication, to keep them safe in an emergency.
What to do if flooding occurs
In the event of flooding:
- Unless this is caused by the tenant, landlords are legally responsible for repairs to the structure of the building and must get water, gas, electricity, sanitation and heating back up and running as soon as possible.
- Although landlords are not required to find accommodation for displaced tenants, they may have to assist with any costs that arise if the property is so badly damaged that the tenant needs to relocate whilst repairs are made.
- When flooding occurs, tenants are advised to tell the landlord as soon as possible and document the flooding where safe to do so in order in case they need to put in a claim later on. This may include taking photos and saving receipts from hotels they have to stay in if the property is too badly damaged to inhabit.
- Tenants are responsible for their personal possessions and should take simple measures to limit damage to the property in the event of flooding where this is possible and does not pose a danger to life. Such measures might include lining the doors of the affected room with towels or rags and using buckets to collect water.
- Advice for tenants who need to move out temporarily can be found on the Citizens Advice website.
Where to get more information
Additional flood resilience advice can be found on the following pages: