How do I know if my property is at risk from flooding?
The Environment Agency provides a flood map on its website for both the public and the Association of British Insurers. This works in two ways: the map itself shows both the areas which are at high risk from floods and those which could be affected by an extreme flood, while an accompanying guide lists current flood warnings.
Flood risk areas are classified in three categories: low risk (less than a 1 in 200 chance of a flood each year), moderate risk (between 1 in 75 and 1 in 200) and high risk (more than 1 in 75). The moderate and high risk categories are the two which are shown on the flood map.
Will insurers cover me if I am at risk?
The ABI agreed a statement of principles with the Government, last updated in 2008. Under this agreement, ABI members will not normally refuse to cover a property in a moderate risk area. They also agree to cover properties in high risk areas if the Environment Agency has already announce flood defence plans which are expected to reduce the risk to moderate levels within five years.
It's very important to note that although insurers are usually bound to cover such properties, they are perfectly at liberty to charge higher premiums or impose a higher excess. There is also an exception which means insurers can refuse to cover any property built after 1 January 2009 as it's assumed builders and buyers will have taken into account the flood risks before going ahead with construction and purchase on a particular site.
Will suffering a flood affect my future premiums or leave me without cover?
This is largely at the discretion of insurers, beyond their commitment to cover properties as detailed above. In theory you might expect an insurer to heavily raise premiums on a property after it has suffered a flood. In practice, the flood may prompt a homeowner to take better precautions to minimise the damage if a flood takes place again. The flood may also put more pressure on local authorities and government agencies to take steps to make sure flooding is less likely to happen again.
When assessing the impact of a flood on future cover, insurers may also distinguish between a flood which appears to be a genuine freak occurrence and once where the risk was more predictable.
With homes where insurers have discretion over cover (those in high risk areas with no plans for improved defences), it is common for the existing insurer to continue to offer cover after a flood but for other firms to refuse to take over cover. This avoid the householder being left without cover, but does mean they have little bargaining power over premiums.
Will I get the same deal as my neighbours?
One of the biggest complaints about home insurance in areas with a higher risk of flooding is that people in similar properties in the same location will be offered widely varying premiums and excesses, sometimes even from the same insurer. The ABI says this is because the risks and potential damages are affected by many factors which can vary even in fundamentally similar properties.
PLEASE NOTE: The guidance published in this article is for information only and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any particular home insurance policy or company. If you are in any doubt please consult an independent insurance adviser. A database of advisers in your area is available at www.unbiased.co.uk
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