As extreme weather events become more common in the UK, more properties are at risk of flooding. But Aviva research Footnote 1 reveals a lack of awareness, with many property owners, tenants and landlords underestimating the dangers to their home.
Different types of flooding
Even if you don’t live near an obvious source of potential flooding, like a river, you could still be at risk. Different types of flooding include:
- River flooding — This is very common in the UK. It usually happens when there's been lots of rain and a body of water, like a river, bursts its banks.
- Surface water/flash floods — This can take place anywhere in the UK. These floods happen very quickly. They're usually caused by very heavy rain, or when extra water can't absorb into the ground quickly enough. This is often because of blocked drains or concrete driveways and roads.
- Coastal flooding — This affects people around the UK who live near to the sea. Extreme weather and high tides can make sea levels rise, causing coastal defences to fail.
- Groundwater flooding — This happens when the water table becomes full and the ground can't soak up any more water, causing water to rise above the ground and flood.
Questions for homeowners
Is your home at risk of flooding?
If you don’t know, you can find out using the Government’s flood risk checker.
Has your home flooded before?
When you bought the property, the previous owners should have told you if it has. Homes that have flooded before are at a higher risk of flooding again.
Does your home have any flood defences?
These normally come under two categories. Flood-resistant measures, like flood gates, help stop water from coming into the property. Flood-resilient measures, like having tiled floors rather than carpet, help reduce the damage caused by flood water.
Would you know what to do in the event of a flood?
Here are some things you can do if you if you think you’re at risk of a flood, or you’re experiencing one:
- Sign up to real-time flood warnings from the Environment Agency and download the British Red Cross emergency app.
- Turn off gas, electricity, and water supplies at the mains, and unplug electrical items or move them upstairs if you can.
- Move any important or valuable items upstairs or to a higher level. Storing these items in baskets means they can be moved easily if a flood is predicted.
- Keep important documents in watertight plastic bags in a high, safe place. Think about keeping extra copies of documents with family or friends. You could also take a photo of them on your phone in case you lose the originals.
- Lift heavy items like fridges off the floor, for example by putting them on bricks, and move furniture to a higher level or upstairs.
- Make a flood kit, including things like copies of important documents, a first-aid kit, a torch, and blankets.
Does your insurance cover flooding?
Flood protection is often covered by home insurance, but check the details of your policy to find out exactly what is and isn’t covered. For example, our Content’s and Building’s insurance policies cover flooding as standard. Some properties are covered as part of the Flood Re scheme. This is a joint project between the Government and insurers to make flood cover more affordable.
Questions for people buying a new home
Is the property at risk of flooding?
If you’re moving to a new area, you might not be aware of the risks from flooding or know about previous floods. You can use the Government’s flood risk checker to find out.
Has the property flooded before?
When viewing a property, ask the current homeowners if it’s flooded before. If you start the process to buy a property, the current owners must tell you about any past flooding on the Seller’s Property Information Form they fill out.
Are there any flood defences?
As well as looking for flood-resistant and flood-resilient measures in the property, you could also look at what wider flood defences there are, if any, in the local area. The Government or local authority will normally look after these.
How much would it cost to insure?
Properties built after 2009 aren’t included in Flood Re scheme. This can make it more difficult to get flood cover, or to get full coverage, if the property is in a flood risk area. It can also make the property more expensive to insure. Before buying a property, find out what insurance cover would be available and what would and wouldn’t be included in the policy. If it’s a new property, check with the home-builders about what they’ve put in place to reduce flood risk.
Risk v reward
Are the risks from flooding worth the rewards of buying this particular property? A property in a high-risk flood area comes with several potential disadvantages. This includes the chance of living through a flood, the trauma of having to move out of your home and possible difficulties selling the property later. But, ultimately, only you can decide if it’s a risk worth taking.
Landlords and tenants — Who’s responsible?
If you rent your home, you’ll need contents insurance to protect your belongings. You can do this with tenants’ and renters’ insurance. These are likely to cover your belongings from fire, theft and floods up to the agreed level of cover, but make sure to check the specifics of the policy to see what is or isn’t covered. It’s important to have your own insurance because, if a flood happens, your landlord’s contents insurance won’t cover your personal possessions. This type of insurance can also provide temporary accommodation if your home is uninhabitable.
If you're in social housing, check with your local authority or housing association about any tenants' schemes that may be available to you and offer low-cost contents cover. We’re part of a tenants' contents scheme, which is available from over ninety councils and housing associations across the UK.
You should also find out what insurance your landlord has and how that would protect you. For example, if your rented home floods, who pays for you to live somewhere else? Your landlord’s insurance may cover this, but if it doesn’t you’ll have to make your own arrangements. Your landlord doesn’t have to re-house you if a flood makes it impossible to live in your home.
And, remember, if your property floods, you must let your landlord know as soon as possible.
In the event of a flood, you have a legal responsibility to your tenant to make repairs and return your property to a good condition.
Landlord’s insurance will cover both your building, including the structure and permanent fixtures and fittings such as a kitchen, and its contents, including carpets and appliances.
As part of this, it may also pay for loss of rent or pay reasonable costs for alternative accommodation for your tenant in the event of flooding.
You should check your existing insurance policy to find out exactly what is or isn’t covered.