Approximately 2.4 million people in England live in immediate flood risk areas. Overall, one in six homes in the UK are at high risk of flooding. Another 11,000 homes in the UK are due to be built on flood zones in 2020 despite devastating flooding at the beginning of the year. 5.2 million homes in total are susceptible to coastal and river flooding and surface water flooding – with the latter being the highest percentage.
When buying your property, checking if it’s at risk of flooding might not be on the top of your list of priorities. If you’re not near a river or coastal area, you might not think flooding will impact your property. With so many ways that flooding can occur, it’s important for property owners to understand the fundamentals and how it can impact your building, costs and policies.
The common types of flooding
Flooding can occur by a number of different means regardless of the time of year. Surface water, groundwater, river and coastal flooding are among the most common types.
Surface water flooding
Surface water flooding is actually the most common type of flooding. This happens during periods of heavy rainfall where the ground becomes saturated. Drainage systems fill up and can no longer hold the level of water or carry it away. Low ground and properties at the foot of a hill will build up water that can’t flow anywhere else. It’s not often obvious that these properties are at risk of flooding until heavy rainfall occurs. By this point, the property’s foundations may not have been designed with flood prevention in mind.
Groundwater flooding refers to a high level of water within the ground or soil. When the water rises up and reaches ground level, it begins to leak through the surface and flood. Water can surge through property foundations and into basements or cellars. Groundwater flooding isn’t a sudden event, it happens gradually over long periods of time and takes even longer to drain away as the saturation levels must decrease.
River and coastal flooding
Heavy rainfall, extreme weather and high tides can cause rivers and coasts to flood. Water levels are raised above normal and flood land. River flooding occurs more than coastal flooding in the UK and is often worsened by foliage, growth and rubbish blocking the flow of water. River and coastal flooding impacts land, properties and animals as its damage is widely spread.
Checking if your property is in a flood risk zone
Before making any buying or selling decisions, you should check if the property is in a flood risk zone. You can look at the government’s website and enter your postcode to find your property on the flood map. From this, you can identify whether you’re near a river, coast or low ground area. The website identifies whether your property is at low, medium or high risk of surface water or river and coastal flooding.
You can also look at the flood map for planning. The map highlights which flood zone you’re in, if it has flood defences, if it benefits from flood defences and if it has flood storage areas. The map highlights roads, streets, rivers, coasts and schools in a certain area. It doesn’t cover details of exact properties so you’ll need to gain exact information about this if you discover you’re at risk of flooding.
The impact of flooding on property valuation
If your property is in a flood risk zone, you should check if it has experienced flooding before and the impact it had on the building, contents and occupants. If you’re selling the property, you should contact a specialist to get your property valued. This will ensure you know as much as possible when it comes to legal policies and obligations and can pass relevant information on to the buyer. The value of your property may be lower than properties not at risk of flooding because of the impact on the building itself, the use of the property and the health and safety of its occupants.
This could impact your ability to gain home insurance and cause difficulty when buying or selling the property. Your insurance premiums may be higher in high-risk flood zones but you may pay less for the property itself because of its risk status. It’s worth enquiring about Flood Re if your property is at risk of flooding and meets the eligibility requirements. Flood Re is a government scheme put in place to reduce the cost of flood cover as part of your home insurance. Insurers that offer home insurance in the UK must pay into the scheme which covers properties at risk of flooding. It helps to keep your premiums at a minimum when buying home insurance with flood cover.
Protective measures you can put in place
The extent to which your property is protected from flooding, despite being in a flood risk zone, can impact the value of your property. When selling your house, you should be open and honest with the history of flooding on your property. Provide details of the damage, cost, insurance premiums, and flood records so your prospects are well-informed. If you’re buying a property, ensure your seller has all the relevant flood records so you can find the best policy rates.
Some councils may provide flood defences, but often you have to put your own measures in place to minimise the impact of water on your property. There are inexpensive methods you can implement such as sandbags, flood barriers and moving your electricity mains higher. Pricier measures include landscaping gardens and driveways, replacing carpets with stone or wooden floors and implementing new drainage systems. These measures are a worthy investment for buyers and sellers alike; sellers will attract more buyers if the property is already protected and gain a better valuation. Buyers will benefit from lower premiums and reduced impact on the property should flooding occur.
The risks and benefits of living in a flood zone often outweigh one another. If you fully understand how your property is impacted by floods and how to protect it, you’ll be able to manage the situation should it occur. With the right precautions in place, buyers won’t be put off by living in a flood zone and may benefit from lower costs. Sellers can improve valuations and attract more prospects by being transparent and prepared.