Feature: Landlords Should Futureproof All New Homes And Properties

By Ian Paton, partner in building surveying at Cluttons

Heatwaves, flooding, wildfires, and storms are increasingly becoming the norm in the UK, with this trend only set to continue with the impact of climate change. Extreme weather events can cause significant damage to properties if the right defences are not in place.

The concept of the 100-year flood is the statistical chance of one percent that a flood will occur in any given year using historical data and modelling techniques. But in 2021, due to climate change, not many years go past without the sadly familiar sight of people’s cars/homes/belongings under water in the UK media.  Climate changes allowances must be added so that flood defence schemes can adapt to future climate scenarios, and can be up to 40% in urban areas.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by 2100 the UK will receive 10 percent more rainfall on average per year, compared to years 1986-2005. Greenpeace highlights that the risk of flooding will only increase, with rainfall becoming less frequent but much heavier.

The UK is on the whole ill-prepared for the event or effects of flooding. That is largely because flooding is not always associated just with rivers and must be considered from all sources, often resultant from surface water flooding due to agricultural practices, development and hard landscaping.

That’s why the building team at Cluttons is calling for landlords to have flood-risk assessments to protect their properties and tenants. With extreme weather expected to be seen nationally, it is vital to start putting the right defences in place where it is needed. We believe that insurers should take the lead and offer pay outs that not only restore what was there before but futureproof against further flood damage now.

Older properties tend to not have sufficient flood defences in place, meaning they are more at risk to extreme weather conditions, but retrofitting and other enhancements can be practical to defend properties against flooding. Cluttons recommends landlords have a flood risk assessment to see whether they should and need to reinforce their buildings. In the long term it provides peace of mind that properties are protected making them more desirable to tenants and adding value.

As flooding has the most devastating consequences and has experienced a rise in incidence and severity in the UK over recent years, we would urge people to get a risk assessment, not just when buying property, but to protect their existing property. As new flood areas become apparent from modelling flood risk, it is crucial to know what can be done and what cover insurers will provide.

New developers should consider designing for flood and installing flood defences on developments that are close to a flood plain. We would like to see landlords and developers take the lead in putting in flood defences now, rather than as an afterthought or a fix after the problem.

Cluttons helped project manage a comprehensive flood defence scheme for United Biscuits, Carlisle, to protect the site against future flood events. After being flooded twice in the last 11 years, Cluttons carried out a feasibility study and further site investigations to develop a design that both satisfied the operational needs of the client but also effectively met the site constraints. Within a year, the 10-acre site was fitted with an automated flood defence system.

The outcome was that the site could be effectively protected from floods within 5 minutes and could be operated by one person. It allowed local jobs to be maintained which in turn benefitted the local community.

Flood models are being updated regularly which can reveal areas at risk that were not previously recognised. It’s important to assess properties for flood risk and put in the right defences early.

We would like to see more of the private sector taking the initiative and working together to futureproof the UK’s property assets. Responsibility is a huge part of ESG in 2021 and landlords, insurers, developers, and homeowners all have a role to play in preparing and weathering the storms, rather than relying on local authorities and legislators to tell us what to do when. This will undoubtedly save huge cost and potential devastation in the future.