Buying a Property and Flood Risk

12 December 2016

When we consider a property flooding we usually think of a burst water main, burst water tank, an overflowing bath or a leaky shower. Whilst all these aspects are important as they will cause damage to the property we should also consider flooding in more general terms.

Flooding in the UK

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) of the 28 million homes in the UK, over 5 million are at the risk of flood. The Environment Agency estimate that 1 in 6 homes in England are at risk from flooding. In Wales over 200,000 properties are at risk from sea or river flooding.

Water will not only significantly damage your property and contents but can also threaten your safety. Flood damage can be devastating, expensive to repair not to mention emotionally draining when you discover your belongings have been destroyed.

When considering buying a property you should always consider whether the property is on a flood plain, is at risk of natural flood and/or has ever been flooded in the past. Your Conveyancing Lawyer can discuss your concerns with you. See top tips for choosing a Conveyancer.

Types of Flooding

There are different types of natural flooding which need to be considered when buying a property together with isolated incidents which may affect the property.

Surface Water Flooding

The ground may flood in heavy downpours when the drains and sewers cannot cope. This type of flooding is more likely in low-lying areas, at the foot of slopes or even in urban areas where the ground is concrete not allowing the water to naturally soakaway into the ground. The Environment Agency estimates 3million properties in England are at risk of surface water flooding with 230,000 properties in Wales.

Groundwater Flooding

This type of flooding can occur during long and intense periods of rainfall. It is most common in low-lying areas. Groundwater flooding can cause a threat to buildings with basements.

River Flooding

River flooding can occur when rivers burst their banks as rivers and streams are unable to carry away floodwaters through drainage channels. River flooding can cause extensive damage to nearby properties due to the sheer volume of water. It can also take a long time for the water to drain away leaving devastation.

Coastal Flooding

Coastal flooding is caused by high tides which can raise the sea levels and tidal water levels resulting in flooding of nearby properties or properties near to the tidal river basin.

How to Know If a Property Has a Flood Risk

If a property is at the risk of flooding you may find it difficult to obtain insurance, the insurance may be at a higher premium or you may have a high excess. If you intend to buy a property with a mortgage you may also find you will struggle to find a suitable mortgage.

You may also find it difficult to sell your property in the future if the property is at risk of flooding.

Your Conveyancing Lawyer can submit searches on your behalf which will determine if the area is in a flood risk area. Although Conveyancing Lawyers are not qualified to provide advice on flood risk or interpret technical flood reports. See What Property Searches Do I Need.

The sellers will usually complete a Property Information Form which will ask if the property has ever suffered from flooding.

You can also conduct your own enquiries and investigations as referred to below.

What Do I Need to Do?

Before you exchange contracts you should ensure you know if the property is at risk of flooding or has been flooded in the past. Your Conveyancing Lawyer can provide you with information. You can also complete a search of the Environmental Agency to determine if the property is at risk. See the Environment Agency website

The property valuer or surveyor should carry out a physical inspection of the property and provide advice on flooding.

Obtain an insurance quote, make sure you are covered for flood risk. Understand the conditions of the policy, the premium and any excess. Remember when buying a property the buyer is usually responsible for insurance from the date of exchange.

If you intend to purchase the property with a mortgage, check if the lender will provide an offer if the property has suffered from a flood or at risk.

The Law Society has also published a Practice Note which is a guide for Solicitors when considering flood risk and insurance. You can view the guide here.

HM Government has published information relating to a flood insurance scheme known as Flood Reinsurance (Scheme Funding and Administration) Regulations 2015. You can view the scope of the scheme and exclusions here.

When considering buying a property you should also consider potential risks which may cost you more money in the long run. At Co-op Legal Services we work with professional experts who can discuss any concerns you may have relating to potential flood.

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