Flood­ing leaves prop­erty own­ers blighted by a lack of in­surance

Flood-hit homeowners could ex­pe­ri­ence more prob­lems when the time comes to sell their prop­erty. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WHEN Sally Henry agreed a sale of her thriv­ing B&B in Heb­den Bridge in June last year, she was pleased to ac­cept the of­fer of £540,000.

It was a fair price for the beau­ti­ful Ge­or­gian house and a busi­ness rated five star gold. But just days be­fore the ex­change of con­tracts, a dev­as­tat­ing flood en­gulfed the town and washed Sally’s dreams away.

Her con­verted base­ment was wrecked, the buyer pulled out and now, less than a year later, the de­tached home is lan­guish­ing on the mar­ket at of­fers of about £350,000 af­ter los­ing al­most £200,000 of its value.

The main is­sue, ac­cord­ing to Sally, is that in­sur­ers are no longer will­ing to in­sure the prop­erty against flood­ing and lenders won’t give buy­ers a mort­gage with­out it.

“It’s hor­rific. I feel like I lost ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing on that day. The house is now worth half what I paid for it in 2009,” she says.

About 6ft of water seeped into the lower ground floor, which housed an apart­ment, two let­ting bed­rooms,a laun­dry, boiler room and store rooms. The rest of the prop­erty, which is on the mar­ket with Charnock Bates, was un­af­fected. It in­cludes a din­ing area, sit­ting area, sep­a­rate sit­ting room, kitchen and two en-suite bed­rooms on the ground floor plus four bed­rooms and two bath­rooms on the first floor. Out­side, there is park­ing for eight cars and gar­dens.

“It’s on at a very low price now and there are lots of peo­ple in­ter­ested in buy­ing it but they can’t get a mort­gage be­cause of the in­surance is­sues. I need a cash buyer and very few peo­ple have got that amount of cash,” says Sally, who has bought an­other home in Kent.

Sally is one of the worst ca­su­al­ties of the Heb­den Bridge floods last sum­mer, but she isn’t alone. Even Simon War­ing, who runs in­surance spe­cial­ist Ry­burne Bro­kers, can’t get con­tents cover for his shop on Mar­ket Street.

He has, how­ever, man­aged to help other flood vic­tims to find a way around the in­surance is­sue, which has threat­ened to scup­per prop­erty sales.

“Sally is an ex­treme case and you can see why in­sur­ers are wary. They are com­mer­cial busi­nesses and their profit mar­gins for home in­surance are sur­pris­ingly low.

“But we have man­aged to put a case for other homeowners who have faced a sim­i­lar prob­lem. We work with one com­pany who will in­sure our clients if cover is ei­ther ex­cluded for the base­ment or you agree to pay a large ex­cess. Th­ese con­di­tions mean that buy­ers can still get a mort­gage.”

There could also be hope for who­ever buys Holme House.

“It’s a lovely prop­erty and with some flood de­fence work it could be in­sur­able, al­beit with a high ex­cess,” says Simon, who adds that the trend for con­vert­ing cel­lars is caus­ing big is­sues.

“If a cel­lar floods then it’s not such a big deal. Maybe a few tools get dam­aged. It’s not that un­com­mon. There’s a stream run­ning un­der my house and water gets in af­ter heavy rain­fall but I have a sump pump in­stalled to take the water away. When you have a £230,000 kitchen down there it’s an­other mat­ter al­to­gether. I’d say think twice be­fore con­vert­ing.”

He sug­gests that those with prop­erty prone to flood­ing and those think­ing of buy­ing a home in a high-risk area, should get an as­sess­ment by a char­tered sur­veyor

The flood sur­vey will high­light how you can pro­tect a prop­erty by in­stalling walls, flood gates and pumps and by rais­ing wiring above flood level.

“It does work, es­pe­cially the gates. We have also put all the wiring high on the wall in our of­fice and that pro­tects our tele­coms if water gets in. I know of an­other shop owner in Heb­den Bridge who sil­i­coned his door up when we got the flood alert and that worked bril­liantly. It only cost him a fiver,” says Simon.

“You can get th­ese mea­sures tested by pump­ing water in and then you can record it and show in­sur­ers that it works.”

Sally has lob­bied Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron for a Government sub­sidised scheme that en­sures prop­erty own­ers can al­ways get in­surance.

“The fact is it may not be the home owner’s fault. Floods can hap­pen be­cause of poorly main­tained drains and de­fences and it seems very un­fair that we are suf­fer­ing be­cause the au­thor­i­ties haven’t done their job prop­erly.

“That’s why we need a government fund. Other home own­ers are go­ing to have the same prob­lem as me. They won’t re­alise un­til they try to sell their house.”

Pro­pos­als are in the pipe­line, though Simon be­lieves they will take time to im­ple­ment and could be con­tro­ver­sial when they are pro­posed.

“It could mean that ev­ery­one pays 20 per cent more for home in­surance whether they live in a flood-prone area or not. Un­less the Government is will­ing to sub­sidise it, there is no easy so­lu­tion.”

Even if you man­age to get in­surance it is likely to in­clude a large ex­cess and that could af­fect saleabil­ity.

“It will limit your mar­ket and pos­si­bly the price,” he adds. “I doubt whether a lender will give a 95 per cent mort­gage on a prop­erty with a £10,000 ex­cess.”

For de­tails on Holme House, New Road, Heb­den Bridge, is on the mar­ket for £350,000 with Charnock Bates, tel: 01422 380100, www.charnock­bates. co.uk

Ry­burne Bro­kers, Heb­den Bridge, www.ry­burne.co.uk

NO GO: Holme House in Heb­den Bridge has seen £200,000 lopped off its value af­ter flood­ing in the town last June. The con­verted base­ment of the bed and break­fast ac­com­mo­da­tion took in water and now in­sur­ers will not of­fer cover for the house, leav­ing po­ten­tial buy­ers un­able to raise a mort­gage. The house has a din­ing area, sit­ting area, sep­a­rate sit­ting room and six bed­rooms.

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