One year on from the floods

The floods of summer 2007 were the most severe weather-related event the UK has experienced in decades. In total, around £3bn of the loss was covered by insurance, with providers receiving about 165,000 claims.

As the first anniversary of the floods approaches, our research found that even if homeowners managed to obtain insurance, they might struggle to change providers because some insurers have stopped giving quotes for high-risk areas altogether.

Those in flood-risk areas are being hit the hardest as they are seen to be at greater risk and therefore more likely to make a claim. If you're not sure whether or not you live in a flood-risk area, check out the Environmental Agency flood maps for England and Wales to see if your home is under threat. Insurers will use your postcode to decide whether you live in an area at risk of flooding.

Advice for homeowners
Many homeowners aren’t aware that 90% of flood damage is caused by the first inch of water entering their property. Flood protection equipment is highly recommended to reduce the likelihood of water seeping through window and doorframes, and this improves your chances in the eyes of the insurance industry.

If you live in what’s classed as a high-risk area but are on top of a hill or high-rise building, you should inform your insurer - this may bring your premium down as you’re less at risk from flood damage. Also, be aware that home insurers use different flood maps; your area may be considered high-risk to one insurer but fine to another.

The Financial Ombudsman Service says it has seen an increase in the number of complaints from homeowners who have had insurance claims rejected. Some of the reasons given include no evidence of a storm in that location at the time and the building already being in a poor state of repair.

It’s worth bearing in mind that buildings insurance does not cover wear and tear. So if tiles come off your roof during a storm and it was already in a bad state of repair and required attention, an insurer could turn down the claim.

As with any contract, check the details of your policy carefully. If you believe you are covered, contact your insurer as soon as possible. Take photos of any spoilt items - it may assist with settling the claim. You should also keep any ruined property, as the loss-adjuster may want to inspect it. Also, hold on to any other evidence that may support your claim.

For example, if the damage occurred because of localised weather conditions, see if there is any reference to it in a local paper or on the internet. If there is, cut-out or print a copy - this could help if the insurer doubts your story.

If you have made a claim for flood damage on your house in the past and are looking to renew your policy, shop around and look for a cheaper policy. Although generally prices have gone up, insurers are still offering competitive deals through comparison sites, including policies for new customers.

Preparing for the future
There are several steps you can take to avoid future claims from floods. If you live in a high-risk flood area:

  • Keep your property in a good state of repair.
  • Clear gutters of rubbish, dirt and leaves.
  • Check pipes for leaks, especially during winter.
  • Keep a stock of sandbags if your area is prone to flooding.
  • Move plug sockets higher up the wall so they are above the likely water level if your home floods.
  • Attach floor skirts and barriers to doors, windows and airbricks. They are permanently fixed to the building but need to be put into position when there is a real risk of flooding.
  • Plan where you can move downstairs furniture to if your home floods.
  • Make sure you firmly secure outside objects - such as garden furniture and barbecues - these can cause damage in severe winds.
  • Check that external light fittings are secure.
  • Keep a home emergency kit - this could include items such as a battery-powered radio, your insurance documents, torch, warm blankets, dry clothing, waterproofs, tinned food, bottled water, a whistle, spare batteries and light bulbs.
  • Check the government’s ‘Preparing for emergencies’ website for more practical tips and information.

Have your say: Have you suffered an increase in your home insurance premium since last year’s floods? Share your experiences and tips on how to protect your home and the best insurance policies by commenting in our forum.

Disclaimer: Please note that any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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