Rising flood risk – why the government and insurers need to do more

Anyone whose home has been flooded will know the devastating damage water can do. Having your house full of stinky, dirty water is incredibly upsetting and something that can take many months for your property to recover from. The government has often been criticised for its ‘half hearted’ response. But what more could insurers do?

If you’ve been flooded

If you’ve been flooded, you’ll want to do your utmost to make sure it can’t happen again. You can’t guarantee to keep the water out, although there are measures you can take to make it harder for the water to get in. But there are also things you can do to reduce the damage that water does if it does enter your home. These measures are part of what’s called ‘flood resilience’.

If your property has flood resilience, it is less likely to be damaged by flood water. It doesn’t necessarily mean water will be kept out but it does aim to help your home dry out faster.

The kind of things that make your home more flood resilient include:

  1. Moving electrical sockets higher up the wall. Traditionally, electrical sockets are often placed just above the skirting board, which means they’re likely to be damaged by a relatively small amount of flood water.
  2. Using water resistant plaster. Traditional plaster can take a long time to dry out if it’s flood damaged. Water resistant plaster is designed not to absorb water in the same way.
  3. Replacing wooden floors with ceramic tiles. Wooden floors are attractive but they can warp after flooding and take time to dry out.
  4. Raising household appliances. Household appliances can be raised on plinths to help keep the mechanics out of reach of flood water.
  5. Quick release internal doors. Doors that can be lifted off their hinges in a matter of seconds (and taken upstairs or out of the way) can also reduce flood damage.
  6. Replacing chipboard kitchen units. Units made of plastic, solid wood or steel are less likely to be damaged by flooding than MDF.
  7. Varnishing wooden skirting boards or fit water resistant ones. You can install plastic skirting boards or ensure that wooden ones are varnished.
  8. Using rugs rather than fitted carpets. Rugs can be taken off floors quickly and moved.

What the insurers say

We’ve talked to a few insurers about whether they offer flood resilient repairs. Some say that their customers aren’t keen (because they may prefer wooden flooring or carpets to the flood resilient alternatives). Others say they are reluctant to offer flood resilient repairs because they are more expensive and customers may switch to another provider within a year or two.

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Our view?

Insurers have created a market where loyalty is not rewarded. People who shop around and switch providers (frequently) get the best deals. Those who stick with their insurer often pay a loyalty premium. In plain English, that means their insurer squeezes as much out of them as they think they can get away with.

This becomes rather more serious when it means that insurers are reluctant to repair their policyholders’ homes in a way that could reduce future damage, because they might not recoup the extra cost.

Insurers are quite adept at coming up with ways to attract new customers, so it’s difficult to believe that they’re not able to think of a way round this. Perhaps offering the option of subsidised flood resilient repairs to customers who’ve been with them for several years, or on the proviso that customers stay with them (with a clause saying that the money could be claimed back if the customer switches elsewhere) could be one solution.

As severe flooding becomes more frequent, homes are likely to be damaged more often and more severely. Flood resilient measures, especially those such as quick drying plaster, could deliver real financial rewards down the road – in terms of faster drying out time and less rebuilding work.

It’s something the insurers need to think creatively about.

Has your property been flooded and did your insurance pay out for repairs? We’d be interested in hearing from you. You can get in touch by email at [email protected] or leave a comment below.

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