Flooding. We’ve all seen pictures on the evening news of whole streets and communities affected by floods, with occupants distraught as they try to bale out and clean up their home. The effects of flooding, where water can get mixed with raw sewage and other pollutants, can be long lasting and expensive, with the Environment Agency estimating the average cost of flood damage at around £30,000 per dwelling.
With this kind of potential cost implication, all insurers have developed sophisticated flood mapping systems to analyze risk. Some are based on flood data provided by the Environment Agency – you can find lots of useful information and a postcode look up facility on the potential threat to your building at www.environment-agency.gov.uk – while other insurers use their own records and data.
This can lead to very different responses when approaching a panel of insurers, who all might see the risk very differently. We were recently asked to get quotations on a purpose built modern residential block on the banks of the River Tyne in Newcastle. The building was well maintained, with substantial river walls protecting it, and was fairly typical of riverside blocks of flats that you find up and down the country.
However, the first three insurers approached all declined to offer terms because of the perceived flood risk that their systems came up with, ignoring the fact that given its location and flood protection, then if it ever did flood, then most of Newcastle would be submerged as well!
We did find other insurers who were prepared to take on this property, and the client eventually went away happy, but it was a wake up call to me that this issue is being taken very seriously by the insurance industry. In such circumstances, having a good broker with access to a wide range of insurers can help mitigate the vagaries of their individual flood responses.
With climate change now an irrefutable fact, unpredictable weather patterns are increasingly more common. Flooding can occur not just from rivers and streams overflowing, or storm surges in coastal areas, but also due to surface water flow from heavy, localised rainfall. With this in mind, there are some measures that building managers can take to secure their premises against flood.
- Check regularly that drains, gullies and gutters are clear and in good repair
- Think about all routes of entry into your premises for flood water – foul sewers, drains, air bricks etc, as well as doors and windows
- Installation of demountable flood boards
- Having a ready supply of sandbags on site
- Be aware of areas where rainwater accumulates in a heavy downpour which might eventually find entry to your premises – are there ways to divert this water?
But the industry is not sitting on its hands. Flood Re is a recent initiative by the insurance market to help provide insurance cover for residential properties (houses and flats of three units or less) in areas where insurance is difficult or impossible to get because of past flood claims.
In addition, a Code of Practice for Property Flood Resilience was launched earlier this year with contributions from a wide range of bodies and professional firms including the Association of British Insurers, all with the aim of producing consistent advice on the protection of property from flooding.
Insurance can pick up the pieces in the unfortunate event of a loss from flooding, but property owners and managers should be aware that it’s not always going to be easy to obtain, and that mitigation measures are imperative to protect your residents from the effects of flood water.