Flooding is every homeowner's worst nightmare, so it pays to know whether your property is at risk -and that you are protected should the worst happen.
According to the Environment Agency, there are an estimated 5.2 million properties at risk of flooding in England and Wales – and there are, of course, many thousands more across Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Of these, 1.4 million are at risk from rivers or the sea alone, 2.8 million from surface water and 1 million are at risk from both.
The Environment Agency has a comprehensive flood map which enables homeowners to see whether their property is at risk of flooding from rivers or the sit. You can see this online at the Environment Agency.
The map will tell you whether there is a low, moderate or significant risk of your property flooding, and also highlights the areas that benefit from flood defences.
If your home is at risk of flooding, then the chances are you will face higher home insurance premiums than someone whose property isn't at risk. You may even have to take out specialist cover if you are in an area that is very high risk. You can find out more about arranging specialist cover here.
The good news is that the insurance industry and the government have thrashed out an agreement which puts a cap on the flood portion of household insurance premiums, linked to the council tax band in which the property falls. Known as Flood Re, this agreement comes into effect in 2015. This scheme will also see premiums capped.
Always compare buildings and contents quotes to ensure you get the best deal to suit your needs, as premiums can vary widely depending on which insurer you go to. Make sure you don't leave yourself under-insured either, as if the worst happens, knowing that you will be able to cover the cost of replacing any damaged items can provide huge comfort.
If your home is at risk of flooding, then the chances are you will face higher home insurance premiums than someone whose property isn't at risk
If you are struggling to get cover, the National Flood Forum provides independent advice on how to approach getting flood risk insurance – visit www.floodforum.org.uk to find out more.
How to prevent water damage
If you live in an area which is at risk of flooding, sign up to weather alert services so that you are as prepared as possible when bad weather strikes.
Stock up on sandbags and buy boards to block doorways so you can use them to try and reduce the amount of water that comes into your home.
If it is looking likely that your property will flood, carry any portable valuables upstairs as soon as possible. In the event that you need to make a claim, your insurer will expect you to have done everything you can to keep damage to a minimum.
Keep your insurance policy to hand, along with any contact details you might need, and check the limits and excesses on both your buildings and contents policies, as you may need to claim on both.
Make sure your property is well maintained at all times. If, for example, you suffer water damage as a result of a leaky roof, any repairs are unlikely to be covered as insurers expect you to keep your home in a reasonable condition.
Once the water subsides
Contact your insurer as soon as possible and let them know your home has flooded. It may be difficult, but try not to start clearing up until the insurer company has sent a loss adjustor to assess the damage. Take pictures of any damage to your home and its contents as soon as possible as this could provide evidence in the event of an insurance claim.
You should also resist the temptation to arrange repairs until you have confirmed your insurance company will cover the cost. It could be that they have their own building company that they use for repairs, or they may want you to get several different quotes before builders can proceed with the work.
Unfortunately you are likely to see a substantial rise in insurance premiums once you have made an insurance claim for flood damage.