My family home was flooded in 2007 and I speak from personal experience regarding the topic. It is an issue that can be prone to emotive reactions. Flooding, though, is a risk and, like all risks, the likely impact of flooding on a property needs to be assessed from facts. Heresay and second hand reports aren’t a great source.
This checklist will help you structure your research so that you can build your knowledge of the property with respect to this important area of concern. It will also help direct you to appropriate professionals whose advice will be essential to help to take appropriate actions and decisions.
1 Establish whether there is a pattern to flooding throughout the history of the property or whether it was a unique event.
DATA SOURCES – current owner’s insurers; local history records and local historians; environment agency records
2 The Environment Agency grades the risk of properties on a flood risk map. This will tell you their opinion of the likely reoccurrence. The map bases risk on the chance of it happening in a period of a year – this is presented as a percentage (eg 1% or 1 in 100)
DATA SOURCE – Environment agency website www.environment-agency.gov.uk
3 Maps detailing groundwater and watercourses may help identify additional sources of water that could contribute to flooding.
DATA SOURCE – Environment Agency ; British Geological Survey groundwater flooding data; and insurers, eg Norwich Union’s flood data.
It is important to understand how flooding occurred in the past and whether measures have been taken that would protect against similar forms of flooding in the future.
4 Check Local Reports and Flood Alleviation Initiatives
DATA SOURCE – Local Authorities will produce a report on the flooding (in association with the Environment Agency) and there should be Local Council Reports (possibly published minutes of meetings) that demonstrate progress.
5 Check quality of maintenance to watercourses, ditches etc.
6 You could ask a specialist to carry out a flood risk assessment. These combine advice on preventative measures with advice on damage limitation. Typically, they would look at the follow list of information, much of which you will already have available
Location plan with new property clearly demarcated.
Site plan showing existing ground levels and proposed floor levels relative to Ordnance Datum.
Cross-section of site together with river levels.
Details of flood alleviation measures.
Probability and magnitude of flooding.
The need for mitigation measures, such as raising ground levels, use of flood barriers etc.
Drainage impacts, including details of any increased surface run-off and how this can be attenuated.
The source of the flooding.
Details of existing information on flooding.
DATA SOURCE – The Environment Agency may give advice in this regard or there are commercial firms listed on the internet who provide this form of specialist report.
7 Property-specific flood defences.
Check whether there are defences that will reasonably provide protection against the flooding that affected the property last time. These may include measures such as external barriers to door openings, airbricks etc; protective membranes to external walls; drainage systems; hard landscaping to divert surface water; sump pumps etc.
DATA SOURCE – many firms provide these products and will give free assessments. (Remember they have products to sell).
It’s always best to have your property surveyed by a professional before implementing measures to ensure that they are appropriate for your situation.
8 Establishing insurance cover.
The first option is to check whether you can maintain continuity of insurance cover with the same company as the current owners. You will be able to confirm the premium they pay and the amount of cover that buys.
Alternatively, you can find brokers who specialise in cover for flood affected property (most general insurers won’t instigate new cover within 5 years of a large claim). Details should be available through the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Insurers operate quite differently and some research is well worthwhile.
Posted by Peter Bray BSc FRICS CBuildE CABE
(Please note that Spencer Bray does not carry responsibility for or warrant advice given to you by any of the sources listed)