Partners and Suppliers Steve Barnes 06/07/2022

The Complete Guide to Protecting your Property from Flooding

The devastating impact of flooding caused by unpredictable weather and torrential rain has become a familiar sight across the UK. Although some areas are more susceptible to flooding, the risk is not confined to riverside villages, which have always been vulnerable to rivers breaking their banks during heavy rainfall, or coastal areas that suffer the effects of high tides.

There can be a risk of flooding even if your property is not built on a flood plain or in a susceptible area - drainage systems can quickly become overwhelmed during a sudden downpour, causing groundwater to rise, and when the ground becomes saturated the resulting excess surface water can have a devastating impact if it gets into properties, making them completely uninhabitable. Floods can also be caused by unpredictable events like burst water mains and backed-up sewers. 

All landlords, not just those with properties in areas that are at a high risk of flooding, need to make sure they have prepared their properties and their tenants for flooding.

In this comprehensive guide, NRLA insurance partners, Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance, explain everything landlords need to know about protecting their property from flooding - from assessing their level of risk to the measures they should take to prepare their properties and their tenants, what to do in the event of a flood, and how to make sure you have comprehensive cover.

Flooding in figures

Although flood claims vary depending on the severity and ferocity of storms each year, they have been increasing year on year. Flooding features in the top three increasing claim types and at £13,739, flood claims represent the second highest average claim payment, second only to fire. The highest claim paid out by Total Landlord Insurance in 2021 was for flooding caused by storm Desmond, when tenants had to be evacuated after an entire street was flooded. The whole of the ground floor and some of the first floor had to be totally stripped out and dried, before all the fixtures and fittings could be replaced, along with new flooring, ceilings and plaster walls. The total cost of the claim mounted to an eye-watering £143,755.

There are approximately 5.3 million UK households at risk of flooding in the UK, with 2.8 million of these being particularly susceptible to surface water flooding. Overall, one in six UK properties are located in areas where there’s significant flood risk. But with unsettled and extreme weather on the increase and the typical cost for fully repairing a flooded home somewhere between £20,000 and £45,000, what should landlords be doing to prepare their properties and reduce the impact of flooding?

1. Check your risk of flooding

While all landlords should take steps to reduce the impact of flooding on their rental property, some properties are at higher risk than others so it’s important to carry out a risk assessment. To find out whether your property is at particular risk, the first port of call for all landlords should be the free GOV.UK service. If you live in an area that you know is at a high risk of flooding, there are various permanent flood resilience steps you can take to reduce the possibility of water getting into or damaging your home.

Steve Barnes, Associate Director at Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance advises:

“Landlords with high-risk properties should consider investing in home improvements to mitigate their higher flood risk, as well as increasing their insurance protection. Landlords in this situation also need to make sure that they know what measures they need to take in the event of a flood, so that they can reduce the impact of any damage as soon as possible. It is true that the initial outlay to ‘flood-proof’ a property may seem high, but if they experience severe flood it will be money well spent.”

2. Implement preventative measures against flooding

There are a range of steps landlords can take to make sure their properties are protected in the event of a flood. Particularly if your property is in an area known to be high risk, you might consider implementing the following measures:

  • Use permeable paving surfaces on driveways and paths
  • Install water-resistant windows, doors and airbricks
  • Install non-return valves for toilets and sewer pipes, to prevent
  • water from backing up into the property if groundwater rises (this measure is particularly suitable for properties susceptible to sewage overflow)
  • Have a built-in sump and pump system to pump water out from below floor level (this measure is more appropriate for higher risk waterside properties)
  • Build a raised porch to keep water from entering the property
  • Have waterproof doors and skirting boards and use waterproof wall sealant
  • Install water resistant flooring such as stone, plastic or ceramic tiles, instead of carpets and wooden floors
  • Raise the height of electrical sockets and use high shelving or wall mounts
  • to prevent damage to TVs or electrical goods
  • Install sealing around external doors and windows
  • Install a flood alarm system
  • Keep lightweight modern versions of sandbags for tenants to use
  • to stop water entering through exterior doors and vents

By implementing these measures, landlords can rest assured that they are doing all they can to protect their rental property against flooding. Landlords can find more advice and information about how to protect themselves from the worst effects of flooding, including details of flood protection specialists on the Property Care Association website

3. Communicate with tenants about how they can reduce the impact of flooding

It’s important that tenants make you aware of any maintenance issues that may increase the risk of damage in the event of a flood. Tenants also need to know what to do in the event of a flood. If you live in a high risk area, it is a good idea to talk this through with them in person, as well as providing them with written guidelines detailing the steps they need to take in an emergency. 

Steve Barnes emphasises that landlords have an important role to play in educating their tenants about the risk of flooding.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in extreme weather events over recent years, and particularly where landlords live far away from their rental property, it’s vital to make sure they communicate with their tenants so they know what to do in the event of a flood. Landlords should provide tenants in at-risk areas with a good supply of sandbags, and make sure tenants know how to turn off the gas, electricity and water. The rise in floods and unpredictable weather highlight the need for landlords and tenants to be prepared at all times – increasingly, we’re seeing that flash floods can occur with very little warning.

“Regular maintenance is of course the best way to reduce the likelihood of any damage to your property. If you take the right preventative measures and have comprehensive landlord insurance in place, you can be confident that you’re doing all you can to protect your tenants and your business.”

4. Carry out maintenance to reduce the impact of flooding

Landlords are legally responsible for maintaining and repairing external structures, including drains and gutters. In the event of a flood, helping water to run away from the property is crucial, so it’s important to make sure gutters are kept clear of debris to encourage effective runoff and prevent blockages from forming that might lead to leaks or overflow to the property. Make sure any drains beneath the downspouts are not clogged up either, especially on paved surfaces.

Landlords are responsible for maintaining drains within the property boundary, so it’s also important to schedule in regular drain maintenance and check the drains regularly for blockages – even a small blockage can lead to a flood if a sudden downpour causes a rapid increase in the water level.

Flood insurance does not cover maintenance issues, damage occurring gradually over time or any pre-existing damage or wear and tear, so regular maintenance really is important. 

Sign up for flood warnings

Forewarned is forearmed, so it’s a good idea to sign up for flood warnings. The Government offers a free flood warning service at GOV.UK. You’ll need to provide the address of the property you want flood warnings for, an email address and a way to contact you at any time of the day or night. You can sign up for flood warnings in England, Scotland or Wales and you can use flood maps to check flooding risk in Northern Ireland. Once you’re signed up, you’ll get warnings of the risk of flooding from rivers, the sea and groundwater when flooding is expected.

What to do if there's a flood in your property

If there’s a flood in your property, it’s important to act fast to limit potential damage, but also to remain calm. The priority is protecting life - your safety and that of your tenants should always come first. 

If your tenants contact you about a flood in your rental property, advise them to do the following:

  • Depending on the extent of the flood, if necessary, get to higher ground, even if this means evacuating the property
  • In the event of evacuation, turn off water, gas and heating and seal the property
  • Stay away from power lines or electrics
  • Always follow the advice of the emergency services 

You or your tenants can also report a flood or a possible cause of flooding. Who you need to contact depends on the cause, for example whether it’s sewers and burst pipes, public drains or ground water. Floodwater may be contaminated, especially untreated sewage, and contamination remains after the floodwater has gone so certain procedures must be followed, including keeping out of the floodwater.

Once you and your tenants are safe you can take the following steps:

  • Take time-stamped photos if it is safe to do so as this will help with the insurance claim
  • Contact your insurers to notify them of the situation and begin the claim
  • process. They will advise you on the next steps to take
  • Contact a drying company to pump out the property and get rid of the water, and then install a dehumidifier to help to dry it out
  • Once the property has dried out appoint an electrician to make sure that
  • your electrics are safe
  • Clean and disinfect the property before the tenants move back in

As a landlord, you are responsible for repairing the property within a reasonable period of time agreed between you and the tenant, depending on the type of work to be done. This includes:

  • Fixing damage to the structure of the property
  • Making sure your water, gas, electricity, sanitation and heating are working

If the tenant can move around safely from room to room while repairs are carried out, there is no need for them to move out of the property, but as a landlord, you are legally responsible for protecting your tenant and their belongings during this time. 

For more information on how to stay safe during a flood, check the National Flood Forum or speak to a Floodline adviser on 0345 988 1188.  

The importance of landlord insurance to protect against flooding

No property can ever be made 100 per cent flood proof. No matter how much preparation and how many preventative measures you put in place, floods can still happen, and the damage can be devastating.

If the damage is so extensive that your tenant cannot remain in the property whilst repairs are being carried out, a comprehensive policy like Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance’s Premier policy will not only cover the cost of the repair work, but also the loss of rent or alternative accommodation. 

Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance is signed up to the Flood Re scheme, which will cover buy to let properties as long as they meet the criteria outlined here. Insurers pay into the scheme and this levy raises £180m every year that is used to cover the flood risks in home and building insurance policies. The scheme reimburses the insurer after a paid claim is made, helping to keep premiums down.

Having comprehensive landlord insurance in place provides reassurance that you and your property are protected should the worst happen and you need to carry out expensive repairs. Check your insurance to make sure your landlord buildings and contents insurance includes flood damage and make sure your tenant knows that it’s their responsibility to protect their belongings with their own contents insurance.

The risk of flooding is an issue no landlord can afford to ignore. But if you follow the steps in this guide, take the right preventative measures and have comprehensive landlord insurance in place, then you’re at least doing all you can do for your tenants and your business.

NRLA landlord insurance partner, Total Landlord Insurance, has a dedicated in-house claims team of expert advisers who are on hand to help you should the worst happen.

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes Head of Broking, Total Landlord

Steve Barnes has worked with landlords and leading landlord associations for over 25 years and oversees the HFIS group as Head of Broking for Total Landlord. Our award winning landlord insurance offering has been providing comprehensive cover for landlords since 1996. Whether you have a single property or a portfolio, Total Landlord has a property insurance policy that will give you value for money and the required protection to support your business requirements. Our dedicated claims team of expert advisers deal with more than 82% of claims in-house and provide customers with a sole point of contact should the worst happen. Named 'Best Landlord Insurance Provider' five times at the Insurance Choice Awards and with a rating of 4.8 out of five on Smart Money People, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands.

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