According to the Environment Agency, one in six homes in England is at risk of flooding. With the typical flood insurance claim being between £20,000-£40,000, it’s important to get it right. Read our essential guide on how to make a flood insurance claim.
With heavy rain and floods hitting the UK once more, thousands of people have had their properties damaged or ruined by the extreme weather. Are you prepared should the worst happen?
Check whether you’re at risk of flooding
You might be surprised at just how many homes are at some risk of flooding in the UK. Even if you don’t live near a river or the sea, there can still be the risk of surface water flooding. Check the Environment Agency’s Flood Map, which allows you to check whether a property in England or Wales is at risk. If you live in Scotland, visit the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
What to do first if you’ve been flooded
- First ensure your own personal safety before worrying about possessions and insurance!
- If possible, turn off your gas, water and electricity supplies at the mains. Move what you can upstairs. Keep important documentation (insurance documents, bank details, passports etc) in a waterproof safe place.
- Call your insurance company as soon as you can. Many firms have a 24-hour helpline but a backlog can quickly build up when widespread flooding hits. If you have separate buildings and contents insurance, phone both insurers. (If you rent, phone your landlord and get them to contact the insurers as quickly as possible).
- If possible, take photos or videos of the damage in each room. Not only will this help your claim, it will also remind you of the things you need to claim for. (Also mark the water levels on the walls for reference, and keep samples of damaged carpets and skirting boards).
- Try and draw up a list that describes in detail the flood damage to your home. (If your insurance policy covers perishable goods, make a list of all the food that was ruined, too).
- Don’t throw anything away (unless it poses a danger) until you’ve been visited by a loss adjustor from your insurers – otherwise you might not be able to claim for everything you’re entitled to.
- If your home needs emergency repair work to prevent immediate further damage, make sure you a) tell your insurance company, and b) get receipts for all work carried out. (Beware cowboy builders knocking on doors for business in flood areas, and never pay cash in advance for any work).
- Keep a record of your dealings with your insurance company and any other related businesses such as builders. Make a note of what was agreed over the phone with your insurer, along with date and time. Keep copies of any paper and email correspondence.
Questions to ask your insurer
- Accommodation: If the flooding is so bad you have to move out, insurers will normally pay for temporary accommodation while repairs are being carried out. Find out what they’ll pay for. Don’t pay for a hotel until you’ve got agreement from your insurer that they’ll cover it. Make sure that your insurers know where to contact you if you move out.
- Damage assessment: If there has been widespread flooding, it may take a while for your insurers to send round a loss adjuster to assess the damage to your property. Ask them how long it will be.
- Repairs: If your house will require extensive repairs, your insurer will be able to give advice on decent tradesmen. Again, beware of cowboy builders and always check references.
- Cleaning-up: Ask if you can clean up your property or whether they will get a company to do so. (Remember not to throw away anything that might affect your insurance claim, especially if you don’t have photo or video evidence of the damage). Check whether your insurers will pay for redecorating as well (don’t be tempted to start redecorating until your house is completely free of damp, which can take some time).
- Vehicles: if you have comprehensive car insurance, check your policy to see if it covers flood damage.
- Damage prevention: ask if they’ll help pay for repairs to your home that will help minimise any future damage (and costs) should your home ever get flooded again.
If you want to make a complaint
If you have a complaint against your insurer (such as that you feel they have unfairly rejected all or part of your claim, or that they are not handling your claim quickly enough) then you can phone or write to your insurer (keep a note of your correspondence). Your insurance policy should contain full details of the complaints procedure.
If your dispute is over the valuation of flood damage, you could consider hiring your own loss-adjustor to provide a second opinion.
But if you’re not getting any joy from your insurers, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service, which will contact the insurer on your behalf (the only downside with this is that the insurer has eight weeks to respond to a complaint made through the Ombudsman).
Renewing your policy after flooding
Insurers often hike up their prices after flooding, especially if they now categorise your neighbourhood as being a high risk area – so watch out for higher excesses and premiums when your policy comes up for renewal. While it’s worth having a shop around if this happens to you, be cautious about moving your policy if your home is prone to flooding, as you may find it difficult to get cover elsewhere.
If you do find it difficult to find an insurer who will cover you after flooding, an insurance broker may be able to negotiate with insurers and arrange cover on your behalf. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) can help you find a broker who specialises in flood insurance. Brokers don’t normally charge you for this service (they usually make their money by getting paid a commission fee by the insurers).
The National Flood Forum charity also gives free advice on how to get flood insurance, and can help put you in touch with ‘flood friendly’ insurers.
It’s also worth looking into insurer-approved flood prevention products, as installing them can slice as much as 10% off your insurance premium.