Measures that must be taken to prevent flooding in your properties

Flooding has always been a substantial risk for certain parts of the UK. It’s a familiar scene that we’re all unfortunately used to seeing on the local and national news, with sandbags and canoes in the middle of the high street.

It’s not just riverside villages that are susceptible either, as torrential rain, burst water mains and backed-up sewers can result in surface water that could have a devastating impact. This can happen almost anywhere and can make properties completely uninhabitable.

Indeed, 5.3 million UK households are currently at risk of flooding (one in six properties) with typical repair costs sitting somewhere between £20,000 and £45,000. It could even be argued that’s a low estimate, as in one recent case from Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance where a major flood caused by Storm Desmond resulted in a £143,755 claim cost; a cost that was covered in full by our landlord insurance policy .

It’s vital for landlords to not only do as much as possible to prevent flooding in the first place, but to ensure they’re properly covered too. 

 

Minimising flood damage

Severe floods often happen without warning in the winter months, and all parts of the UK are susceptible. In any part of the country, heavy rain can lead to rising groundwater, leading to high tides, rivers breaking their banks and sewers backing up. Being unprepared can lead to serious repercussions, particularly for landlords with multiple properties in one at-risk area. 

According to Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance Associate Director, Steve Barnes:

Landlords with high-risk properties should consider investing in home improvements as well as increasing their insurance protection. They should also ensure they know what measures to take in the event of a flood to mitigate damage. Even though the initial outlay may seem expensive, in the event of a severe flood it will be money well spent.” 

– Steve Barnes, Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance Associate Director

Steve’s advice is well-founded but before we explore your insurance options, let’s look at the steps all landlords can and should be taking to reduce the likelihood of water damage.

 

1. Check your risk

There’s a free GOV.UK service that allows you to check whether your property is at particular risk. This should be the first port of call for all landlords, as it will help you to gain some perspective on just how vigilant you should be.

 

2. Prepare your tenants

Supply all tenants in at-risk areas with a decent supply of sandbags or lightweight modern alternatives to keep water from entering through the front or back doors and waterproof air brick covers. You could also look into temporary door and window seals, which could keep some surface water at bay.

If the property is at significant risk you can also install a flood alarm system.

 

3. Damage prevention

We understand undertaking major renovations is a costly endeavour but if your properties are located in particularly susceptible areas it could save you a fortune in the long run. There are several things you can do to minimise the damage

  • Raising the height of electrical sockets on the ground floor and ensuring all electrical goods are raised above the floor on high shelves or wall mounts 
  • Replacing wooden window frames with more durable UPVC
  • Waterproofing the doors and skirting boards, as when wood gets wet it can rot. For this reason, waterproof ceramic or stone flooring is always preferable to wooden boards and carpets and sealing around external doors and windows

 

4. Further measures

  • Installing a sump and pump system to pump water out from below floor level is a great way of minimising significant water damage. This should only really be considered in waterside properties though 
  • In properties susceptible to sewage overflow, you could install non-return valves on toilets and drainage to reduce the risk of sewage overflow 
  • Install ‘check valves’ in the plumbing to prevent water from backing up into the property in the event of groundwater rising
  • Build a raised porch to keep the water from entering your home

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What to do in the event of a flood?

Measures that must be taken to prevent flooding in your properties

The first thing is to remain calm. If your tenants contact you complaining of flooding, you should advise them to do the following, always being aware that their safety must always come first.

  • Get to higher ground 
  • Contact the local authorities
  • If you need to evacuate the property, turn off the water, gas and central heating
  • Steer clear of power lines and electrics

Once the tenants are safe, you should take the following steps to minimise lasting damage:

  • If it’s safe to do so, take time and date stamped photos as this will help with the insurance claim
  • If you don’t have a sump and pump system installed, contact a specialist drying company to get rid of the water and install a dehumidifier
  • After the property is completely dry, hire an electrician to ensure the electrics are safe
  • Clean and disinfect before allowing the tenants to move back in
  • Contact your insurers, notifying them of the situation so that they can begin the claims process and advise you and your tenants on the next steps

No matter how much preparation and how many preventative measures you’ve put in place, the worst can still happen and flooding can occur. If this happens, it’s vital that once you’ve acted to keep your tenants safe and mitigate the damage, you refer to your tenancy agreement to assess your ongoing responsibilities. 

The tenancy agreement should help to establish whether the tenancy terminates or not and whether the landlord is responsible for helping to source alternative accommodation. This is especially important if there is severe damage that is going to take many months to fix.

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Comprehensive landlord insurance

Above all else, however, all landlords must have comprehensive insurance cover in place that will protect them in the event of flood damage.

Flood cover will provide protection against the majority of water-related issues, though it doesn’t include maintenance issues, pre-existing damage, a rise in the water table or damage that occurs gradually over time.

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 on this page.

This scheme raises £180 million per year that’s used to cover flood risks in home and building insurance policies, with Flood Re reimbursing the insurer after a paid claim is made. This keeps premiums down and is why at-risk properties remain a viable option for landlords.

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Preparation is key

There have been 17 record-breaking downpours recorded since 1910 and nine of them have occurred in the last 20 years. At that rate, we can expect extreme flooding in the UK to continue to rise, with scientists predicting there’s a 34 per cent chance of rainfall breaking a regional record somewhere in the UK every winter. With global warming also a factor, there’s no telling how much worse it’s going to get in the years ahead.

It’s a problem you can’t afford to ignore so if your properties are at risk of flooding, preparation is everything. If you 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.

If you want to ensure you’re doing every you can for your tenants and your properties, find out more about Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance today. 

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