Last winter, the UK witnessed an unprecedented pattern of intense storms, delivering the worst period of rainfall for 248 years. This resulted in serious and devastating damage to properties and infrastructure across the country.
As our climate continues to change, there is a very real risk of last year’s weather catastrophe repeating itself. Of the 5.2 million properties in the UK currently at risk of flooding, 1.4 million of these are at risk from flooding by rivers or the sea* and with sea levels predicted to rise again by 11-16cm in the coming years, the outlook for these properties is bleak.
The Government’s Autumn Statement delivered the welcome news of a £2.3bn cash injection into restoring and enhancing the network of flood defences across the UK. This 6 year programme is targeting the most at-risk locations. In addition, Flood Re is being introduced to assist homeowners with accessing affordable flood insurance. However, Flood Re is only designed to last for 25 years and is a transitional arrangement to a free market pricing structure for domestic flood insurance. So whilst Government intervention is welcome, there will be ongoing costs to homeowners to ensure properties are resilient or resistant to flood ingression.
The immediate concerns for most businesses and home owners in the aftermath of a flood are: who will pay for the clean-up and when can ‘normality’ resume? If a property has suffered flood damage in the past, or if the property is within an identified flood risk area, it can sometimes be difficult to find insurance cover. Not only are there concerns as to whether insurance can be purchased for ‘at risk’ properties, but also with potential losses to real estate values due to the unavailability or lack of affordability of flood insurance, as the effects could be catastrophic.
The latest guidance from the Law Society (18th December 2014) states that during conveyancing transactions, it should be established as to whether flood insurance is available before any binding commitments are entered into. Using a desktop environmental report that includes an “insurability index” will provide that information. As the ongoing impact of a changing environment continues to develop, it is vital that conveyancers ensure that any desktop environmental report purchased on behalf of a client includes comprehensive flood information and not simply screening data. Although no-one knows what the future holds, it is likely that homeowners will need to take more and more responsibility for mitigating the effects of flood risk on their homes.
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