Flooding and flood risk to properties

Posted by Liz Brady

Partner

We have seen heat waves hitting Southern Europe this summer and we are told that the incidence of these extreme weather conditions is likely to increase in future.  Another extreme is flooding.  In July, in the U.K., we witnessed flash flooding in a village near the Lizard in Cornwall.  A torrent of water went through the village of Coverack leaving about fifty properties damaged.  Fortunately, on this occasion, there were no injuries to people.  The U.K. Meteorological Office subsequently announced that there is an increased risk of “unprecedented” winter downpours in the winter of 2017 (like those of 2014).  Their study indicated that there is a 1 in 3 chance of monthly rainfall records being broken in England and Wales in the coming winter.

There are several types of flooding and that experienced in Cornwall this year is an example of one type.  The main types are as follows:-

  • Surface water
  • Ground water
  • River
  • Coastal.

Surface water flooding which overwhelms inadequate drainage (eg. when a river floods and blocks the draining culverts) accounts for a large proportion of property flooding.

Homes at risk

Publicity available figures show that about 1 in 6 homes are at risk of flooding (about 5.9 million homes in total).  The winter floods of 2014 cost in excess of £5 billion.

New homes built on flood plains

These issues do not seem to deter some developers and each year 10,000 new homes are built in flood plains (about 1 in 14).  There are various grades of flood plain so it is not catastrophic to build in flood plains but it does have to be factored into the design of the development.  Where new build houses are constructed in a Flood Zone level 3, however, there is a high and dangerous risk of flooding.

Government advice and flood risk to properties

Government advice following flooding in the summer of 2012 was that people should make sure they are insured, that they sign up for environment agency warnings, they review the weather forecast regularly and have a flood plan for evacuation.  This advice only goes so far.  The Environment Agency site has a 5 day warning but is not comprehensive.

Flood risk is a problem for property owners and occupiers, landlords and lenders and relates to commercial property as well as residential property.

Knowledge of flood risk in advance means that the risk can be taken into account in the valuation of the property, insurances and perhaps certain flood protection measures can be installed if appropriate.  If it is not known in advance, then it is often too late and your property is devalued or even worthless in the event of a devastating flood.

Flood risk search when buying property

When buying any property a flood risk search is recommended.  There are many providers out there.  They usually assess the data for river, coastal, ground water and surface water flooding and review some other flood indicators.  They also often check data on whether there are any existing flood defences that might benefit the property in question.

In conclusion, you should check the flood risk position on existing commercial and residential property you own or occupy and take precautionary measures and if you are buying, you should check the flood risk position before proceeding.


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