The Environment Agency (EA), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Northern Ireland’s Rivers Agency report that over 5 million properties in the United Kingdom are at risk of flooding.
Flood damage can be significant and it is important that buy-to-let property owners have taken adequate precautions against this, including a review of the Landlord and/or HMO Insurance policies to ensure that the correct sums are insured.GET A QUOTE
Forecasting flooding largely depends on a number of factors, such as when and where a storm will hit or how much rain it is likely to bring. Often, short periods of intense rainfall can create significant flash flooding, in which the rain falls so fast that any underlying ground cannot drain away fast enough.
In the worst circumstances, roads will almost become rivers, with vehicles and objects being swept away and buildings become flooded. The particular danger of flash flooding is the limited warning between the rain falling and the flood occurring. Longer periods of heavy, widespread rain and storm surges can also cause coastal flooding.
Property owners should be aware of flood risk wherever your property is based, but particularly in low lying areas. Even very small rivers, streams or ground that appears harmless in dry weather can flood and you need to be prepared.
Flood Warnings From The Met Office
The Met Office is the UK’s National Weather Service, providing up-to-date weather warnings and advisories as well as making the public aware of severe or hazardous weather through its National Severe Weather Warning Service.
Warnings are given a colour (Green, Yellow, Amber or Red) based on the combination of both the likelihood of the severe weather event occurring and the impact the weather conditions may have. Landlords should make sure that they check their local weather forecast regularly to find out whether the Met Office has released any warnings for their specific area.
You can also find the latest warnings at www.metoffice.gov.uk. You can also get advice and information 24 hours a day from the EA, SEPA and local authorities during flood emergencies by calling Floodline at 0845 988 1188 for England, Scotland and Wales, or the Northern Ireland flooding incident line at 0300 2000 100.
The Met Office provides the following examples of what to expect during heavy rains and floods.
Very Low Threat (Green)
- Some flooding of low-lying fields, recreational land and car parks but little or no disruption to travel.
- Wet road surfaces and the possibility of ponding water, leading to difficult driving conditions.
- Take extra care when driving in affected areas.
Low Threat (Yellow)
- Localised flooding of low lying fields, recreational land and car parks.
- Flooding of a small number of homes and businesses.
- Wet road surfaces and the possibility of ponding water, especially in known trouble spots.
- Local disruption to travel—expect longer journey times.
- Water on roads—drive according to the conditions encountered.
Medium Threat (Amber)
- Some flooding of homes, businesses and transport links possible.
- Disruption to travel likely.
- Disruption to gas, electricity, water supplies and telecoms.
- Some evacuations may be required. Be prepared to protect yourself and your property.
High Threat (Red)
- Widespread flooding of property.
- Severe disruption to travel.
- Loss of gas, electricity, water supplies.
- Significant disruption to communities.
- Evacuation expected.
- Significant risk to life.
- Take action to protect yourself and follow the advice of emergency services.
If the Met Office issues a warning for heavy rain and flooding in your location, make sure you are prepared. Use the following tips and hints to help ensure the safety of you and your tenants if heavy rains and flooding are prevalent.
Flood maps have been created to show the flood risk for your community. For more information about the flood risk in your area and to view flood maps, you can visit the following websites:
- England and Wales: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood
- Scotland: www.sepa.org.uk/flooding
- Northern Ireland: www.nidirect.gov.uk
Preparing For Flood
What would you do if your property, or even multiple properties, were flooded? Are you prepared? Even if you feel you are in an area with a low risk of flooding, remember that, if it rains, it can flood!
Just because you haven't experienced previous flooding, it doesn’t mean that it won't in the future. Flood risk isn't only based on history; it is also based on a number of factors, including rainfall, topography, flood-control measures, river-flow and tidal-surge data and changes due to new construction and development.
To prepare for a flood, you should:
- Sign up for advance flood warnings by visiting www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood or www.floodlinescotland.org.uk.
- Create a personal flood plan. Download a template from www.environment-agency.gov.uk/flood.
- Prepare a flood kit with essential items such as your insurance documents, a torch, a wind-up or battery-powered radio, warm clothing and blankets, a first aid kit and any prescription medicine, bottled water and non-perishable foods.
How To Prepare Your Let Property for Flooding:
- Elevate the boiler, water heater and electric panel if you live in an area that represents a higher risk of flood.
- Consider installing ‘check valves’ to prevent floodwater from backing up into the drains.
- If feasible, construct flood barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.
Things To Do During a Flood
If a flood is likely to occur in your area, make sure that you and any tenants are prepared. As a Landlord, you have a duty of care to the safety of your tenants and this involves providing adequate information and support at the time of a flood:
- Listen to the radio or television and check online for more information.
- Be prepared that flash flooding could occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
- Be aware of streams, rivers, drainage channels and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
- Turn off utilities at the main valve and central switches. Disconnect electrical appliances and advise tenants not to touch electrical equipment if they are in wet or standing water.
- Do not walk through moving water, even fifteen centimetres of moving water can knock over an adult. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away in as little as 0.6 metres of moving water!
- Gather essential items and move to a higher, safer area.
- Listen to the advice of emergency services and evacuate if told to do so.
- Check on the safety and whereabouts of your tenants – if a flood occurs you should contact your insurers who may be able to assist with the provision of alternative accommodation as part of your Landlord Insurance policy.
What To Do After a Flood
Although floodwater levels may be down in some areas, many dangers still exist. Here are some key things to remember:
- Use local alerts and warning systems to get information and expert advice as soon as available. Play it safe. Additional flooding or flash floods can occur.
- Find out from emergency services if it is safe to re-enter your property.
- Avoid moving water.
- Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire or a relief organisation.
- Stay off the roads and out of the way as emergency workers assist people in flooded areas.
- Use extreme caution when re-entering buildings—there may be contamination and hidden damage, particularly in the foundations.
- Call your Landlord or HMO Insurance company.
- Take photos of the damage to your property.
- Flood debris may hide animals or broken bottles, and it's also slippery. Avoid walking or driving through it.
- If it is a necessity to walk or drive in areas that have been flooded:
- Stay on firm ground. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Take another route if you come upon a barricade or flooded road. Roads may still be closed because they have been damaged or are covered by water. Barricades have been placed for your protection.
- Remember that flooding may have caused familiar places to change. Floodwaters often erode roads and walkways.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
A flood can cause physical hazards and emotional stress, both to you as a landlord, but also to your tenants. You need to look after yourself and those around you as you focus on the repair and clean-up process.
- Avoid floodwaters — water may be contaminated by raw sewage, petrol or oil.
- Repair and maintain any sewer or septic tank damage - Damaged sewer systems are serious health hazards.
- Monitor news reports to understand whether the water supply is safe to drink.
- Disinfect and clean everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals.
- Keep a schedule of work, documenting repairs and actions completed.
Property Insurance & Flooding
Best practice is to review your Buy-To-Let Insurance policy with a specialist insurance advisor. In higher flood risk areas, some insurers may look to exclude flood cover altogether, as such, all policy wordings should be studied carefully to ensure you fully understand what is, and what isn’t, covered.
Rebuilding sums insured should also be reviewed, ensuring that adequate cover is in place. If you are unsure of the correct rebuilding cost, then we would suggest a professional valuation is undertaken by a qualified professional.
Loss of rent and alternative accommodation cover provides protection against your loss of income as a landlord following a flood (or other loss). Alternative accommodation will provide indemnity against the cost of re-housing tenants – this can be considerable, particularly in the case of House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) risks whereby multiple tenants may need to be re-housed.
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