Flood Insurance and Why You Might Need It

Flood insurance may be required for your home

Home Flood Insurance

In this article we explain all aspects of home flood insurance from what it covers to what to do if you live in an area with a high risk of being flooded.

Flood Insurance in the UK

According to the Environment Agency, 2.4 million properties in England are at risk of river or coastal flooding, 3 million could suffer a surface water flood while 600,000 homes face the real possibility of both types of flooding. Even homes which are not situated in high-risk flood areas could flood because of torrential rain or a burst water pipe.

Because of the very real possibility of flooding, it is advisable for all homeowners to ensure that their buildings and home contents insurance includes a component covering damage caused by floods. Without it, you might find yourself with a home in need of extensive repairs and without the money to fix or replace furniture and domestic appliances.

What does flood insurance cover?

Flood insurance consists of different components but could provide financial cover for:

  • The removal of debris carried by the floodwater
  • The drying out, repair and restoration of the building (including fixtures and fittings)
  • The repair or replacement of water-damaged possessions
  • Fees for professionals (such as property surveyors, architects and solicitors)
  • Alternative accommodation (in the event the property remains uninhabitable because of flood damage)

Flood insurance policies differ, so you should always read the fine print to ensure that your home flood insurance includes these key elements. If one component is missing, you could ask for it as an add-on (for a higher premium).

When paying out for furniture and domestic appliances, your home contents insurance policy has two options: ‘new for old’ and indemnity cover. The first is more expensive as it will pay out for the replacement of new items. However, indemnity cover will pay according to how much your possessions would have reached if they had been sold second-hand.

When considering your buildings and home contents insurance policies, always consider the extent of the coverage. For example, how long alternative accommodation will be paid for. Will this be long enough while your home is being repaired? You should also check your excess (your contribution to any insurance claim).

Although the contents of your garden are usually covered in your home contents insurance policy, the damage to vehicles is not even if they were parked on your property when the flood occurred. However, paying for the repairs to a car is usually covered by a comprehensive motor insurance policy.

Property Resources
UK Environment Agency
Flood Re initiative
UK Government Flood Maps

How do you know if you live in an area with a risk of flooding?

To find out if your house is in an area at risk of flooding, you should check the government’s flood maps. There are 3 separate maps in the UK: England/Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the property questionnaire, which is given to you when you purchase property, should include details about whether the house has been flooded in the past.

Flood zones are divided into 3 categories depending on the probability of flooding, numbered 1-3 with 3 representing the highest risk. You should find out which zone your property falls into because it will affect the cost of the flood insurance component of your buildings and home contents insurance policy.

You should always be above-board and notify your insurance company of the flood risk. Non-disclosure might mean cheaper premiums in the short term, but your insurer will refuse to pay out any claim you make if you have misled them.

In England, you can contact the Environment Agency for further information about the flood risk. They will also be able to provide you with a request letter free of charge. This document will help insurers assess the risk of insuring your property against flood damage and will include details such as:

  • Any planned local improvements to infrastructure to reduce the risk of flooding
  • The last dates when your area was flooded
  • The results of the most recent National Flood Risk Assessment

Three tips to reduce potential flood damage

1. Install flood boards and air brick covers to keep out water. Also, put one-way valves on the drainage pipes to prevent sewerage from backing up.

2. Ensure that drains and gutters are regularly cleaned and kept free of debris such as leaves. This will allow rainwater to leave faster.

3. Register for flood warnings from your local authority. When notified, make sure valuables are moved upstairs away from rising floodwater.

Flood Insurance FAQ

Are tenants or landlords responsible for taking out flood insurance?

A landlord must have buildings insurance which will cover flood damage to the structure of the property and might also have home contents insurance with a flood insurance component if they are renting out furnished accommodation. As a tenant, you are responsible for paying your own home contents insurance for any possessions you have or if you have rented out unfurnished property.

Can I start cleaning up before my insurer inspects the flood damage?

Yes, however you should always document the extent of the damage by taking photos before starting to clean up. For furnishings (such as carpets), you should always keep samples so that the insurance claims assessor can see that the damage was irreversible. If in doubt, you should keep anything that you think would be useful in proving how irreparably damaged your personal possessions were.

How much is flood insurance?

The average cost of building insurance is £111 while home contents insurance costs £66 – both would contain a standard flood insurance component. A combined building and home contents policy is £146. The price depends chiefly on the likelihood of your property being flooded. If you have been flooded before a policy would start at around £280 but could be much higher.

What is Flood Re?

Set up in April 2016, Flood Re is an initiative to ensure that property owners in areas at risk of floods can access affordable flood insurance. Although it is owned by the insurance industry, it is regulated by both the PRA and FCA and accountable to Parliament. An annual £180-million levy on insurers and their premiums helps with the operating costs of the scheme. Insurers can choose to transfer the flood risk element of buildings and home contents insurance policies onto Flood Re which keeps the costs of homeowners’ premiums lower.

In order to be eligible for the Flood Re scheme, you should possess a residential property in a flood zone which was not built before 1st January 2009. Registration is possible online by downloading the form and sending it by email or post. Once your eligibility has been checked, you would apply for insurance in the normal way by collecting quotes. You should inform your insurers of your registration so they can calculate the price of your premiums accordingly.

Can I get flood insurance if I am not eligible for Flood Re?

If you are not covered by the Flood Re initiative, it is still possible to get flood insurance. To find a company ready to insure your property, you should use a specialist insurance broker. Ensure that they are a member of a professional organisation such as BIBA and follow their Code of Practice.

They will not usually charge you a fee for their services as they are paid a commission by the insurance companies. The higher risk you represent to insurers, the higher your premiums. However, you should always notify them of any preventative measures you have taken to reduce the extent of flood damage because this might result in a reduction in the cost of your buildings and home contents insurance policies.

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