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Flood risk practice note updated

31 January 2020

We have updated our Flood risk practice note. The practice note was last revised in 2016. There is increasing concern about flood risk for property owners in England and Wales as a result of climate change.

The Environment Agency estimates that at least 5.2 million homes and businesses in the UK are at risk from flooding, with numbers set to rise over future decades. This was already evidenced by the severe flooding in 2019 when the UK saw near-record levels of rain with over 2,400 properties inundated across England (while some 22,275 were protected by defences).

Flooding can have major impacts on people’s lives and businesses. It is already costing the UK approximately £600m a year just to manage flood defences, without considering the economic damage caused by flooding.

The practice note suggests information sources that prospective buyers can access to better understand the risks of flood and the steps they can take in relation to insurance and searches.

The fact that Flood Re does not cover properties built since 2009 and the indications that more new properties are being built on or near floodplains makes this more important.

Peter Kellett, Director of Legal Services at the Environment Agency, says:

“Properties built since 2009 are not covered by the Flood Re scheme. Property purchasers should check that flood cover is included as part of their buildings and contents insurance. It is always a good idea to shop around before buying insurance. If people are finding it difficult to get their property insured, they can get advice from the National Flood Forum.

“Flooding has a devastating impact on people’s lives. Property purchasers should be aware of their flood risk and sign up for the Environment Agency’s free Flood Warnings Service. For more information visit www.gov.uk/check-flood-risk or call Floodline on 0345 988 1188.”

It may not always be obvious that a property is at risk of flooding. In addition to the better-known risks of flooding from rivers and coastlines, flooding from surface water, groundwater and overflowing sewers is becoming increasingly common.

The main changes to the practice note are about:

  • the prevalence of flood risk
  • insurance for both residential and commercial properties
  • related changes to the Law Society Conveyancing Protocol

It also includes information about:

  • flood risks
  • flood searches
  • flood maps and indicators
  • insurance
  • inspection, surveys and valuations

Russell Hewitson, Chair of the Law Society Conveyancing and Land Law Committee, says:

“Flood risk can be a serious issue for some homeowners. Prospective buyers need to be taking steps to investigate whether they will be able to obtain insurance cover on acceptable terms before they agree to buy a property. There are other steps they can take to obtain more information about this risk, and these are set out in this revised note.”

Read the Flood risk practice note

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