The increase in extreme weather across the UK is worsening the problem of flooding, which is why it pays to have the correct insurance in place for your home, says Natasha Root, Insurance Executive.
When heavy rainfall causes flooding and rivers burst their banks, the Environment Agency has an early warning system in place. But pluvial or surface floods tend to occur with little warning, often in areas not usually prone to flooding, placing more properties than ever at risk. The Environment Agency has said that one in six properties in the UK is now at risk of flooding, and according to Zurich Insurance, flood damage costs the UK an estimated £1.1bn per year.
Obviously, there are actions you can take to mitigate flood damage, such as stocking up on sandbags (your local builders’ merchants can help, or your local council may have a stockpile). Some homeowners have installed flood boards and non-return valves on drains and pipes to prevent back flow; or wet proofing measures, such as flood-resistant materials for doors and skirting boards and raised electrical wiring.
When flooding does happen however, water can enter your premises via a number of routes, including walls and floors, doors, windows, airbricks and vents, drains, sewers and pipework. With little time to react to such an event, it is important to know what to do if the worst happens. Serious flooding can cause structural damage and make buildings unsafe, so do not re-enter the property unless you know it is safe to do so, and if possible, turn off electricity, gas and water before floodwater enters your property. Keep your insurance paperwork in your emergency bag, along with medicines, a torch and a change of clothes. When you go back into your property do not throw anything away if you are planning to claim for contents insurance – it is all evidence.
The role of the loss adjuster
If you are flooded, contact your insurance broker immediately, and they will arrange for a loss adjuster to visit and assess the damage where appropriate. The loss adjuster’s role is to find the quickest and most efficient way to return your property to a liveable condition. In most cases, they will try to visit you within 48 hours, depending on the accessibility of local roads.
Provided you have adequate insurance, your insurer will deploy damage mitigation specialists to remove water, manage removal of contents and dry out your home. If your contents are insured, a loss adjuster will advise you what can and cannot be restored, depending on the level of contamination. As it can take many months for flooded premises to dry out, it is also important to make sure you have cover for temporary new accommodation in place.
Underinsurance is a common problem in flood situations, so please check with your insurance broker that your property and contents are adequately insured. Regular professional valuations will help you avoid difficult conversations about the replacement value of items such as electrical goods, carpets and furniture, at a time when you just want to be getting your life back on track.