By Helen Hutchison, Residential Property partner

The floods in November 2019 seem forever ago. The world has changed so much in 2020, but as the clouds start to grey and new weather warnings appear, the minds of many homeowners may again turn to the weather.

South Yorkshire, particularly Doncaster, was especially affected with over 760 properties experiencing flooding. More devastating was that some homeowners were insufficiently or not at all insured for flood damage.

Boris Johnson’s Government, which faced criticism over their slow response to the floods, promised significant funding to help the victims and to invest in flood defences. Earlier this month, it was announced that Amanda Blanc, former chair of the Association of British Insurers, will lead the Government’s independent review into flood insurance. The review will assess why homeowners did not have the insurance required and particularly focus on the affordability and accessibility of flood insurance for the communities most affected. The review is due to be completed by the end of September 2020, but this may change owing to the current situation.

Amanda said: “Flooding is a truly devastating event for any householder or business to suffer with consequences that can take many months or even years to overcome. Appropriate and adequate flood insurance can greatly assist with this recovery; helping to get families back into their homes and put businesses back on their feet.”

The review may conclude that some homeowners were not even aware of the risk of flooding, the requirements of their lender to insure or that their insurance was inadequate.

So what can a homeowner, or someone looking to purchase a property in a flood affected area, do now?

Firstly, know the risk. Many conveyancers now include a flood search as standard and will report to homebuyers about the risk of flooding in the area. However, flooding can be unpredictable and risk can change, so bear in mind this is not a guarantee. You should also understand your obligations to your mortgage lender insofar as the level of insurance which you are required to put in place. Ensure you read your insurance terms and conditions carefully.

Secondly, give yourself time to research insurance offerings. Do not be tempted into purchasing the cheapest insurance package which may leave you inadequately covered in the event of flooding. You can start researching insurance from as soon as you make an offer on the property, but the insurance need only be ‘put on risk’ from the point of exchange*. If in doubt, speak directly with insurance providers and brokers to fully understand the level of cover which you are purchasing. If you already own your property, you should review your current insurance policy to ensure it is sufficient.

Finally, if you are in doubt ask questions. Your conveyancer is there to give you information, but your surveyor will also be able to explain the risk and what measures may be taken to protect your property.

*Leasehold transactions are different, normally the landlord insures, and your conveyancer can advise you accordingly.