Whether you believe it’s a result of climate change or not, there are definitely some very scary and increasing occurrences of flooding across the UK. Not only are they on the increase, they are also getting much more severe.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, “the risk of flooding is growing” and “of the 28 million homes in the UK, over five million are currently at risk”. In the recent floods at the end of 2015, the North West and East as well as Scotland saw some of the most devastating effects, especially in areas such as Cumbria, Leeds and the Borders.
With a doubling of the number of properties being rented since the millennium, it’s therefore not a surprise that more renters (and landlords) are being affected by flooding issues. This means as a landlord it is important to be aware of whether your property is at risk and what to do when this extremely frightening and upsetting problem occurs.
More importantly, landlords who own properties in flood-risk areas need to have an action plan to put in place at any time of day or night and know how to protect themselves, the property and, of course, the tenant who may become homeless.
Assess your property’s risk of flooding
The first thing to do to check whether your property is at risk is to visit the Environment Agency’s Flood Map which provides information for floods from the river and the sea across England and Wales.
For Northern Ireland, visit Northern Ireland Direct. These maps are updated on a regular basis throughout the year, so it is worth checking them whenever floods hit the headlines.
However, even if your property doesn’t appear on this map, this doesn’t mean you will never be flood free as there are other causes such as groundwater, run-off from fields, overflowing sewers or even burst water pipes.
If you are considering buying a new property to let, especially in an unfamiliar area, then do double check any flooding issues so you can insure the property, particularly following the severe floods experienced in the latter part of 2015.
What to do if your tenant or agent reports flooding at your property
The main thing that the tenant needs to do is check that they have moved as many of their belongings upstairs or off the floor as far from the flooding as possible. This will help limit damage.
In England and Wales, you need to contact your local council or Environment Agency Incident Hotline on 0345 988 1188 or 0800 80 70 60. If the flood is caused by water pipes bursting, contact your local water supply company.
In Northern Ireland, tenants can ring 0300 3000 100 24/7 and they will take the details and alert the relevant agency to deal with the flood. Householders may also be eligible for emergency funding of up to £1,000, to help make their homes habitable as quickly as possible.
There is also a useful guide which can be downloaded from the National Flood Forum; this offers advice on keeping safe and warm, as well as watching out for things like contaminated water from sewers.
Protect your tenants, your property and yourself from flooding disasters
One of the first things to do is to make sure you are signed up to the flood warning system provided by the Environment Agency, which you can do for free on their Flood Warnings Direct service. If it is a known risk locally, it’s worth advising your tenants to sign up to this service, too.
Next you need to check you are insured against flooding. . If your existing insurance policy doesn’t cover you, you are looking for a new policy, or you haven’t considered flooding as a risk, speak to your local Reeds Rains branch or call our specialist landlord insurance advisors on 01392 849 761^.
Check that the tenant’s own insurance will cover them for their contents, emphasising that you protect the property and your own items in it, but they are responsible for insuring their own belongings.
Before any emergencies occur, it is worth downloading and filling in a personalised flood plan which is provided free of charge by the government. This encourages you to record all the necessary information such as key contacts and key locations for utility services, the local authority and guidance on what to do if a flood is pending. For example, you can start preparing now by sealing important personal documents such as passports and birth/marriage certificates in plastic bags. It also prompts you find where to source sandbags to help prevent water from getting into the property.
Finally there are some small, not too costly measures you can take to help reduce or even prevent some of the problems of flooding, as long as your tenants are aware of the part they need to play. For example, if there is imminent danger of flooding, tenants can fit covers you have provided to stop water coming in through air bricks. Other useful tools are non-return valves on drains and pipes coming into the property. Also if possible, and if there is time, household appliances can be raised off the floor.
What to do next
At Reeds Rains we offer four insurance products for landlords, so do talk to one of our insurance advisors on 01392 849 761^ to understand more about these products and how they can help protect you, your property and ensure your tenants are well looked after in the event of an emergency, too.
Please note for these insurance products terms and conditions apply. You will receive a full policy document upon application. This policy will set out the terms, conditions and limitations of cover provided under the plan.