Hard rain’s gonna fall so it pays to pre­pare for flood­ing

Storms have dev­as­tated homes and now insurance com­pa­nies are get­ting tougher on flood risks, as Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

SCENES of streets turned into rivers by dev­as­tat­ing down­pours have shocked the na­tion and put fear into the hearts of home­own­ers ev­ery­where.

Ac­cord­ing to the Royal In­sti­tu­tion of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors, there is cause for con­cern. Of the 28 mil­lion homes in Bri­tain, five mil­lion are risk of flood­ing.

The RICS also be­lieves that there will prob­a­bly be more floods in the fu­ture, due to changes in weather pat­terns and the amount of new build­ing on low-ly­ing ar­eas in re­cent years.

Wa­ter dam­age is the most sig­nif­i­cant worry. It wrecks ev­ery­thing from wiring to trea­sured pos­ses­sions. Dry­ing out can take months and ren­o­va­tion even longer. Then there’s the stress of deal­ing with loss as­ses­sors.

Added to that are fresh anx­i­eties over prop­erty val­ues and saleabil­ity thanks to a clamp down by mort­gage and insurance com­pa­nies.

A grow­ing num­ber of lenders in flood prone ar­eas are in­sist­ing that bor­row­ers have build­ing insurance in place be­fore their mort­gage is ad­vanced. Many buy­ers are un­able to find it or dis­cover that premi­ums are too ex­pen­sive and sales fall through.

“More post­codes are fall­ing into flood ar­eas and a lot of big di­rect in­sur­ers won’t touch them,” says Si­mon War­ing, of Ry­burne Bro­kers in Heb­den Bridge.

“Us­ing a lo­cal insurance bro­ker can help. We have found one com­pany that 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.”

Flood RE, an agree­ment be­tween gov­ern­ment and in­sur­ers to pro­vide cover for 500,000 hard hit homes, may help al­le­vi­ate the prob­lem when the scheme launches in sum­mer 2015. Si­mon also sug­gests that those who have been flooded in­vest in a sur­vey to as­sess risk and de­fence strate­gies. They range from £500 to £1,500 and are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar.

Skip­ton-based JBA Con­sult­ing has seen an in­crease in the num­ber of do­mes­tic flood sur­veys it car­ries out. Tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Mark Bent­ley says: “Ev­ery­one who buys a house gets a ba­sic screen­ing re­port to check if flood­ing and con­tam­i­na­tion are an is­sue but that doesn’t ex­am­ine de­tail like where the wa­ter might come from, how it will get into the house, which way it will run and how deep it might get, or how to pro­tect your home with mea­sures like flood boards.”

You can check gen­eral flood maps on the En­vi­ron­ment Agency web­site, though they are con­tentious. Tim Blenkin, of York es­tate agency Blenkin and Co,says: “The map colours the whole of the Vale of York blue to de­note the prob­a­bil­ity of flood­ing and that has a neg­a­tive im­pact on prop­erty. Any buyer un­fa­mil­iar with the area in­evitably asks, ‘does it flood?’ even if a prop­erty is on a hill.

“We can­not re­as­sure them about fu­ture prob­a­bil­i­ties, only tell them of the record so far, but the lev­els of ig­no­rance and alarm are as­ton­ish­ing.”

Tony Rud­di­man, of Hud­der­s­field-based The Flood Com­pany, which spe­cialises in flood proof­ing, says 75 per cent of his cus­tomers haven’t suf­fered “wa­ter ingress”.

“They see it is a pos­si­bil­ity and want to be pre­pared,” he adds.

De­fences for do­mes­tic prop­er­ties don’t have to be ex­pen­sive, ac­cord­ing to Tony, who sug­gests re­plac­ing stan­dard air bricks with au­to­matic ver­sions that close in a flood. They cost about £70 but will stop 5,000 litres of wa­ter an hour gush­ing through open vents.

Plas­tic bar­ri­ers to pro­tect front doors cost £375 each, while a sub­ma­rine-style flood door is £2,000. In­stead of sand­bags you should in­vest in Flood Sax, which Tony de­scribes as “huge ab­sorbent nap­pies”. They cost around £125 for a pack of five. Home­own­ers should also en­sure that the point­ing at the base of the house is good and that pipes lead­ing to the out­side drain have non-re­turn valves.

While sur­veys and de­fences can be a good in­vest­ment, Ed­ward Hartshorne, of Blenkin and Co, says that flood­ing doesn’t al­ways de­ter buy­ers. He points to the sale of The Old Vicarage, a river­side prop­erty at Acaster Mal­bis, near York.

“A few days be­fore ex­change of con­tracts the buyer rang to ask if the River Ouse had ever flooded. I con­firmed it had and a day later the ground floor was duly swamped in a foot of wa­ter,” says Ed­ward.

“The buyer was still happy to ex­change at the agreed price. What does this tell us? If a river­side cot­tage is 300 years old, has hap­pily sur­vived and been adapted to en­dure oc­ca­sional floods. If the seller is up-front about this and if the buyer is happy to take it on, then there is no prob­lem. Af­ter all, the guide price takes the flood­ing his­tory into ac­count and the de­mand for such a house, whilst re­duced, does at­tract sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est from those who sim­ply want a house with beau­ti­ful river views.”

FOR­WARD THINK­ING: This 1960s house was ground-break­ing when it was built and still looks mod­ern to­day. De­signed by renowned ar­chi­tect Peter Ald­ing­ton, it still has most of the orig­i­nal fixtures and fit­tings. The sin­gle-storey build­ing is in a U shape with open-plan liv­ing space and four bed­rooms.

IM­PRO­VISED DE­FENCES: As­sess­ing risk and flood proof­ing in ad­vance can save heartache when ris­ing wa­ter threat­ens to dam­age your prop­erty.

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