The floods have sadly been dominating our lives in recent weeks, so we’ve asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to answer some of your flood insurance questions.
1. What should I look for in my flood insurance if I live in a high risk area?
The UK insurance market is extremely competitive so you should always start by obtaining several quotes. Insurance premiums and terms and conditions reflect an insurer’s assessment of the likely incidence and severity of the flooding. In most cases, flood insurance is part of your buildings and contents insurance, the majority of which can be obtained through an online form or by telephone.
If it has not been possible to obtain affordable cover through a normal insurance provider, there are specialists who may be able to help. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) can provide details of specialist brokers who will ask specific details about your circumstances, location and property. You may be asked questions about the current flood risk in your location, floods which have happened in the past and the action that has since been taken to reduce the risk of future flood damage. Insurance specialists could charge a fee for the services they provide but, if they do, you will be informed of any costs at the outset.
You can also undertake measures to protect your home against flooding. A flood risk mitigation survey can help you determine what can be done to reduce your exposure to flood damage and confirm that any existing flood measures have been fitted correctly by the installer. This will help to present your risk profile to insurers in the best possible light and could help reduce your premium.
2. What can I do to protect my home against flooding?
For individuals the impact of a single flood event can be devastating with a flood of even just a few hours causing around £35,000 of damage to a property according to the Association for British Insurers. Taking precautions to reduce the damage and disruption of flooding can lessen the impact on your life and reduce the costs of insurance and future repairs. This includes installing flood resistant and flood resilience measures, also known as Property Level Protection.
The National Flood Forum helpfully sets out a step-by-step process for property level flood resilience, from understanding flood risk, to product installation. When considering a particular flood product, check that it has been tested to industry standards by looking for the Kitemark symbol or equivalent accreditation. Kite-marked products are usually favoured by insurers.
There is also a lot of useful advice on how to prepare your property for flooding on the Environment Agency website, for example fitting water-resistant skirting boards and raising electrical sockets.
To find out if your property is at risk from flooding, visit the Environment Agency flood map site and sign up to free flood alerts which provides flood warnings by phone, text or email. This will allow you to take action should flooding be forecasted in your area, for example by moving valuable and precious items upstairs.
3. What should I do if my home is flooded?
First of all, stay safe; depending on the level of flooding you are experiencing you may need to leave your home. Public Health England provides important information on how to plan for flooding before it happens, what action to take during a flood and recovering and cleaning up after a flood. This includes preparing a flood kit (clothes, toiletries, and insurance documents), moving family and pets to a high place and avoiding contact with floodwater. Do not touch sources of electricity if you are standing in water.
Contact your insurer as soon as you are able and once the flooding has ceased, they will send a team to assess the scale of the damage. You will need to keep in close contact with your insurer; their first priority is to help their customers recover and get their flood claim moving as quickly as possible.
If you are having problems making a claim or you don’t feel your complaint has been treated fairly, read Which?’s guide on making a complaint about your insurance provider.
4. What is going to happen in the future with obtaining affordable flood insurance, given the recent spate of floods we have experienced?
In June 2013, ABI and the UK Government announced an agreement on a framework for developing a not-for-profit scheme – Flood Re – to ensure that flood insurance in the UK remains widely affordable and available to households at high risk of flooding.
5. When will Flood Re be implemented and what do I do in the meantime?
The UK Government is looking to implement Flood Re as quickly as possible, however, it must first complete the Parliamentary process which provides the necessary powers to put Flood Re in place. The Water Bill completed its passage through the Commons before Christmas, and is making its way through the House of Lords. The Government are on course for legislation to come into force in April 2014. There will then be work on the regulation and setting up of Flood Re, which should be operational by Summer 2015.
Insurers have committed to abide by the Statement of Principles until Flood Re is operational.
6. Will there be reduced insurance premiums for those properties with recognised flood protection measures installed?
Insurers will always try and take into account measures taken to reduce risk where it can be shown that they reduce the risk for a household. You should talk to your insurer to let them know about the measures you are taking, as different insurers have different approaches to assessing risk. However, to keep premiums as low as possible many insurers keep their processes automated, so it is important that you telephone and shop around at renewal to get the most competitive quote.
You can also contact a specialist broker who may be more able to take installed measures into account.
7. Who is responsible for flooding on my land?
Local flood authorities (county and unitary councils) and internal drainage boards are responsible for managing the risk of flooding from minor watercourses, surface water and groundwater. Flooding relating to land drainage in low-lying areas where land drainage ditches are common is usually dealt with by Internal Drainage Boards.
The Environment Agency is responsible for managing risks of flooding from major watercourses and reservoirs. Water companies are responsible for managing the risks of flooding from water and foul or combined sewer systems.
Flooding related to water draining off motorways or trunk roads, it’s the Highways Agency
8. Will insurers consider flooding events as an ‘Act of God’?
There are no flood events that have been classified as an Act of God – there are different severities of flooding which result from weather and environmental factors. The insurance industry, in developing its Flood Re solution, recognises how much homeowners depend on available and affordable flood insurance.
9. What actions are you taking for flood insurers using costly phone numbers for customers calling for help?
The issue of premium telephone numbers has been raised with insurance companies following the meeting with major flood insurers in Downing Street on 18 February and it’s something insurers have said they are willing to keep under review.
This is a guest post from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).