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Insurers call for traffic light flood risk info on property websites and adverts

People looking to buy a home should be given more up-front information about the property’s flood risk, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) will say ahead of its Biennial Conference this week.

It comes as a new survey of over 2000 UK adults found that nine out of ten people agreed flood risk information should be included on material about properties for sale.

At present no property search websites include flood risk information for the location of properties they list – despite having data on anything from school catchment areas to most commonly read newspapers in the area.

The ABI also found a lack of flood risk information on brochures for new build properties.

Ahead of its Biennial Conference on Tuesday, ABI Director General Huw Evans is setting out three key steps which should improve awareness of flood risk as part of the home buying process:

  • Estate agents and property search websites to automatically provide traffic-light style information indicating flood risk for the locations of the homes they list. This should be based on publicly available Environment Agency data1. A new survey by the ABI found more than 9 out of 10 people support this idea2.
  • Flood risk information should also be provided in the marketing for new build properties. Research by the ABI of sales material in 50 of the highest flood risk areas in England and Wales, many of which have been hit by serious flooding in recent years, found none included any warnings about flood risk.
  • All solicitors and conveyancers need to follow the Law Society’s guidance to conduct specific searches for flood risk, and to arrange for an in-depth assessment by a technical expert if there is any flood risk to the property.

These proposals are in line with a recommendation from the Pitt Review into the 2007 floods, that people buying a property should have access to up-front flood risk information3. This information would not be a definitive guide to flood risk on an individual property but would be a very good indication of where further investigations could be necessary.

The ABI is also publishing a new house hunters’ guide (196kB) to advise people of the steps they should take in the meantime to stay informed about the flood risk of properties they are considering.

ABI Director General Huw Evans said:

Huw Evans, ABI Director General"Flooding can ruin a home, destroying valuable possessions and often force you to move out while repairs are made. A higher risk of flooding also tends to mean higher insurance premiums.

"With one in six homes at risk of flooding, we need to make thinking about flood risk as much part of the home buying process as school catchment areas and transport links. At the moment, information on whether a property is at risk of flooding comes too late, often when people have already invested hundreds if not thousands of pounds in the conveyancing process.

"That’s why we are calling for those who sell properties to include new traffic light warnings on flood risk in a property’s area. You can currently get more information about what paper your new neighbours might read than if a particular property might be at flood risk.

"These simple warnings will help people go into the home buying process with their eyes open and knowing whether further investigations are necessary.

"We now want to work with estate agents, property websites and the Environment Agency to make this happen."

At the moment, open data is available to be used in this way in England and Wales but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Floods Minister Rory Stewart said:

"Flooding can devastate lives, homes and businesses. That’s why we are investing in flood protection at record levels, with an unprecedented six-year commitment of £2.3 billion to better protect an additional 300,000 homes by 2021.

2It is important that everyone has access the right information, including the flood risk in their area, so they can make fully informed decisions when buying a home.

"We are making more data and technology available to help people plan and prepare for potential floods, such as the Environment Agency’s free Flood Warnings Service and our advanced flood mapping and forecasting."

Some other key stats:

  • Rightmove hit 100 million web visitors in a single month in January and Zoopla averages around 45 million a month.
  • Fees for local searches by your solicitor and a survey for your lender can add up to around £500 - before crucial flood risk information about your potential new home is uncovered.
  • Environment Agency data shows that 2.4 million properties in England are currently at risk of river or coastal flooding, an additional 3 million properties are at risk of surface water flooding, and 600,000 of these are at risk of both.
  • Following the winter floods of 2013/14, insurers paid out more than £450million in flood claims.
  • Five of the top six wettest years on record have happened since 2000.

Last updated 01/07/2016