Purchasing a potential flood prone property

28 Nov 2012

You find your dream home, perfect location and within budget. But there is a catch – it has been previously prone to flooding. Do you carry on regardless or walk away?

The Environment Agency states that over 5 million people in England and Wales live and work in properties that are at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea – and with an increasing number of new developments being built on flood plains and the severity of Britain’s freak weather – these statistics are set to continue.

This article explores some of the precautions that a potential purchaser can rely on to ensure they have all the necessary information prior to purchasing that dream home.

What to do when purchasing a property:

–  Your Conveyancer will commission an Environmental Data Search which will detail any risk of flooding. It will reveal whether there is surface water flooding within a 250m radius of the property – typically worded to say “the potential risk has been modelled on the basis of an event occurring on average every 75, 100 or 1000 years. Surface water flooding is due to flooding from minor rivers, water flowing across the ground or raised groundwater levels”. But remember, this is only a ‘data’ search, no actual  inspection has been carried out of your particular property. A typical limitation to the use of such searches.

–  The Law Society’s Property Information Form specifically asks the Seller to confirm if the property has ever suffered from flooding. Your conveyancer will check the answer. This is useful as you will find out from first-hand experience whether the property is prone to flooding or not. In addition the Seller should disclose whether any insurance claims have been made in respect of the property.

–  It is the Seller’s duty to disclose whether the property subsequently floods between completing the necessary paperwork and an exchange of Contracts – helpful in light of the recent weather.

–  You must usually ensure buildings insurance is taken out on exchange of Contracts – and obtaining an insurance quote should always be investigated at the very start of your conveyancer’s involvement as this will flag up whether an insurer considers the property to be at a flood risk.

–  Check online tools such as the Flood Map on the Environment Agency’s website by clicking here or the Flood Risk Indicator on the Land Registry’s website by clicking here.

–  If it is common knowledge that the property has historically flooded – does it now benefit from a Government-backed flood defence system – although this does not always ensure the risk is diminished as the residents of Kempsey, Worcestershire discovered when their £1.7 million flood defences failed.

–  Certainly always consider having a building survey carried out on your property, and as part of this, your surveyor should be looking for evidence of flooding.

–  Speak to neighbours – and in the local shops – to see what information you can discover about flood risks to the property.

Due to the media coverage of the nationwide floods, new data searches are being mass marketed to conveyancers – ‘flood searches’ – though these products are not universally admired, perhaps wrongly targeting conveyancers (instead of surveyors) who are not qualified to interpret such data and they are again just data searches with no guaranteed conclusions.

Sadly, the recent floods have caused devastation across the country with over hundreds of properties being affected – and whilst the above safety measures seek to minimise the chances that you never fall victim to mother nature – the stark reality is that you can never guarantee you will not be affected by flooding.