How the risk of flooding could affect your house purchase
The importance of establishing the flood risk
If you are buying a house it is a good idea to consider the risk of flooding at an early stage. Flooding could affect your enjoyment of your new home and will have an impact on the cost of insurance and your ability to obtain a mortgage.
You should also consider the possible impact when you come to sell. That picturesque cottage by the water’s edge may be your dream home and you may be willing to accept the risk of it flooding, particularly if you can get insurance cover. However, a history of flooding or high insurance premiums could deter prospective purchasers in the future.
Finding out about the flood risk
If you are interested in a property, ask the sellers if any part of it has ever flooded. If you make an offer, and the purchase progresses, your conveyancer will ask about flooding in their standard pre-contract enquiries. If the sellers give a false statement then they may be liable to pay you compensation.
Always discuss any concerns and information which the sellers give you with your conveyancer. They can check that the sellers’ replies to formal pre-contract enquiries are satisfactory and consistent with what they have told you. Later, you may find it hard to rely on a statement which the sellers made informally which is not confirmed in the conveyancing papers.
Environmental and other conveyancing searches
Susceptibility to flooding is not always apparent. Your sellers may only have limited knowledge of the property, particularly if they do not live there or have only lived there for a short period.
Your conveyancer will carry out a number of searches and enquiries to assess the risk of flooding objectively and provide peace of mind. For example, the Environment Agency publish maps which show generic information about the likelihood of flooding from watercourses and surface water. The Land Registry also provides a flood risk indicator.
Surveys and specialist advice
Standard searches may provide a good general indication of flood risk; however, they are rarely tailored to a specific property. If a search reveals a possible concern, then you and your professional advisers may want to make more detailed investigations.
If you are taking out a mortgage, then your lender will usually require a valuation. This, or your own survey, may also reveal issues which need further investigation. Commissioning a specialist flood survey can give you a better understanding of the possible impact on your prospective new home. It can also often suggest ways of physically reducing the risk of flooding.
The possibility of flooding need not necessarily stop you buying your dream home, but you should be aware of the risks. Your lender will require adequate buildings insurance to be in place from exchange of contracts and you should satisfy yourself that you can obtain sufficient cover at a reasonable cost.
Since April 2016, the Government sponsored scheme, Flood Re, has made it easier for home owners, whose properties are at a higher risk of flooding, to get insurance cover on reasonable terms. However, the scheme does not extend to all properties. For example, it does not cover some flats or homes built after 2009.
How your conveyancer can help
It can be a big disappointment to discover your prospective new home is susceptible to flooding. Your solicitor cannot make the risk of flooding go away. However, an experienced conveyancer will make the right searches and enquiries and liaise with your surveyor. They will ensure that you have all the necessary information to make an informed decision and, if necessary, to take steps to mitigate the risk.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.