The damage caused by flooding can be catastrophic to your home and business. That’s why it’s crucial that you are properly covered and know what to do if you ever need to make a claim.
The payout to flood victims in the Midlands and Yorkshire cost around £110 million last year alone. According to the ABI, Britain experienced some of its wettest weather in 2012, costing insurance companies around £400 million worth of damage, whilst the storms of 2016 meant insurance claims climbed to around £1.3 billion, with homes and businesses making almost 15,000 claims.
With climate change having a serious and continuous effect on our weather, there is no guarantee that this is the last we have seen of unprecedented rainfall levels. So what should flat owners do if their homes are damaged by flood water?
The ABI advises that anyone with flood-damaged possessions should:
- Contact their home insurer for immediate advice on what to do next – in some cases an inspection of possessions will not be necessary.
- Dispose of any items that are a health hazard, such as rotting food.
- Take photos of damaged items before throwing them away.
- List, as far as possible, details of damaged items.
- For items like carpets and soft furnishings, take a cutting as this can help your insurer in providing a similar replacement or cash payment.
Despite assurances from the industry, according to Paul Hendy of the Scottish Flood Forum, people can often feel “abandoned and frustrated” by their insurance company in the event of a flood. For example, in the 2016 floods, some homeowners reported difficulties getting through to their insurer to register a claim, and waited weeks for a visit from a loss adjuster, meaning delays before dehumidifiers were installed leading to further damage.
Belinda Thorpe, Managing Director at Residentsline, discusses how difficult and overwhelming it can be when flood damage occurs: “It’s not just taking care of our clients that’s putting pressure on insurers, but dealing with the other knock-on effects. For example, hotels and other temporary accommodation resources are being inundated by claimants needing temporary accommodation plus trade people are having to be brought in from other parts of the country to assist with the demand for repairs.”
Belinda’s advice for homeowners is to check that you have adequate cover before you are faced with an emergency situation such as flooding or storm damage. With 3,000 homeowners requiring alternative accommodation following the recent storms, ensuring your buildings insurance policy protects you is key.
Midway Insurance MD, Paul Robertson, also urges flat owners to check their policy wording carefully. Insurance documents tend to be complex and one misread word can completely change the meaning of the policy. If in doubt, ask your insurer or broker to explain any clauses you don’t fully understand. Paul’s top tip is only to buy from a firm that specialises in block insurance: “They will be able to advise you on anything that could revoke your cover, such as flat roof inspection requirements. Any reputable insurer will also have modified the policy to remove any unreasonable parts that shouldn’t apply to a block of flats.”
In the event of a successful claim, you will still normally need to pay an excess amount. This is the first part of a claim that you are liable for and will have been previously agreed with your insurance provider. The amounts can vary from £100 upwards and could cause unexpected cash-flow shortfall, especially as some insurers are applying large flood excesses. However, excess cover is available that allows you to reclaim the full excess amount, so you are not out of pocket and the cover provided includes claims for subsidence and flood.
Finally, don’t forget to insure your contents. Contents insurance can be arranged from as little as £100 a year and cover for flood damaged belongings will be available to the majority of leaseholders, even those whose blocks won’t be covered by the new Flood Re scheme that comes into force in April. Don’t risk losing all your worldly possessions to save £8.33 a month!