Flood insurance – getting the right cover

Flooding is becoming increasingly common in the UK – and apart from the heartache and hassle, the cost of cleaning up can be huge. Insurance is advisable, especially if you live in a high-risk area and the introduction of Flood Re means affordable insurance is easier to find than before. Here’s the low-down on flood insurance and how to get it at a price you can afford.

What is flood insurance?

Use the GOV.UK website to find out if an area at risk of flooding and if insurance premiums in the area might be affected.

Flood insurance is normally included as a standard part of your buildings insurance, but it won’t cover your contents unless you also have a home contents insurance policy.

You may need flood insurance in case of:

  • A river or canal bursting its banks
  • Seawater flooding due to storms and/or a high tide, and
  • Surface water or rapid groundwater flooding as a result of heavy rainfall or a burst pipe

What does flood insurance cover you for?

Flood insurance covers the costs of:

  • Drying out, repairing and restoring your property and its fixtures and fittings
  • Repair or replacement of damaged furniture and belongings
  • Removing debris
  • Professional fees (eg solicitors, architects, surveyors)
  • Alternative accommodation while you can’t live in your home

Things you might not be covered for

Replacing all your damaged belongings

If you’ve been flooded, you can start cleaning as soon as you like – you don’t need to wait until your insurer has assessed the damage. But, do take photograph of damaged goods and keep samples of things like carpets and furnishings to show your insurer.

When it comes to claiming for damaged belongings, the amount your insurance company will pay out depends on the type of contents insurance you have.

  • New for old – If you have a ‘new for old’ policy, your insurance company should pay out enough to replace all damaged items with new equivalent items (other than clothes, where there’s usually a deduction for wear and tear). Most policies offer this.
  • Indemnity cover – If you have this type of policy, you’ll only get the value of your possessions before the flood occurred. So, if your sofa needs replacing at a cost of £2,000, you will only get what the old one was worth, which might only be £200.

Alternative accommodation

The amount of cover insurance companies offer for alternative accommodation varies.

Think carefully about the level of cover you take out. If your cover is too low, you might need to move back into your home before the repairs are finished or foot part of the bill for alternative accommodation.

Do you need flood insurance?

“There’s nobody that’s not at risk of flooding, even people that live on top of a hill.”

Source: Mary Dhonau, Chief Executive of Know Your Flood Risk on BBC Money Box (July 2012)

If you are struggling to find insurance cover that is affordable, Flood Re may be able to help you. Flood Re has been set up as a joint government and insurance industry initiative that works behind the scenes to help insurance providers offer more affordable policies to households with eligible properties affected by flooding.

Because of the high cost of clean-up and repairs following a flood, it’s important to have insurance for your home and its contents.

  • Your mortgage company usually insists on you taking out buildings insurance, which will often include flood cover
  • If you rent your home, it’s your landlord’s responsibility – not yours – to have buildings insurance
  • Although contents insurance isn’t compulsory, the cost of replacing everything in your home would be so high that it’s almost always a good idea to have contents cover

Check whether you’re covered in the event of a flood

Check all the details in your buildings and contents insurance policies that relate to flooding and make sure you have enough cover to protect you in the event of a flood. Even if your insurance isn’t up for renewal, it’s worth checking. Call your insurance company to query anything you’re not sure about.

New laws mean that it’s up to insurance companies to ask the right questions about what they want to know. But if your property has a history of flooding, you should inform your insurance company – even if they don’t ask. The last thing you need is a hitch if you ever need to make a claim

Get specialist help

Use a specialist broker

An insurance broker can help you negotiate with insurers and arrange cover, if your property is not eligible to be included within Flood Re. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) can help you locate an insurance broker who specialises in flood risk.

Brokers don’t normally charge you a fee for their services – they get paid commission by the insurance company instead.

Talk to the National Flood Forum

The National Flood Forum is a national charity giving independent advice on how to go about getting flood risk insurance. They also publish a list of ‘flood friendly’ insurers.

Call the National Flood Forum on 01299 403055.

Know your risk

The more you can find out about the flood risk to your property the better. Here are some things you can do.

Check your risk on a flood map

Find out whether you’re at risk from river or coastal flooding where you live.

If you’re insuring a property in Scotland, it’s worth knowing that the Scottish Government does not allow insurance companies to use this information when setting insurance premiums.

If you live in England, you can contact your local Environment Agency office to ask for additional information on the level of risk in the area where you live.

You can ask the Environment Agency for what’s known as an insurance-related request letter. These are free of charge and include details such as:

  • The most recent National Flood Risk Assessment that was carried out
  • Any flood defences and the level of protection they offer
  • Any planned improvements to reduce flood risk
  • Any dates when the area was previously flooded

Pay for a ‘flood risk assessment’

This will help present your risk profile to insurance companies in the best possible light and will highlight things you can do to reduce the risk. To increase the chance of insurance companies being able to make use of the information, make sure that the survey is as detailed as possible, and includes facts and figures about the level of flood risk to the property.

You can look up companies which can provide an assessment on The Blue Pages directory website and on the Flood Protection Association websiteopens in new window.

Reduce the risk

Be proactive. There are things that can be done to reduce your flood risk including:

  • Signing up for flood warnings
  • Joining a flood action group
  • Lobbying for improvements to flood defences locally (working with your local authority and get involved in public consultations)
  • Considering installing products, such as flood boards and air-brick covers, that can keep flood water out of your home

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