Call for flood data to be included in UK home sales material

People looking to buy a home in the UK should be given more upfront information about the property’s flood risk, it is clamed, with a survey showing that the vast majority want it included on sales details.

Some nine out of 10 people believe that flood risk information should be included on material about properties for sale, according to a study from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

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 points out, adding that there is also a lack of flood risk information on brochures for new build properties.

The association is calling for 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 data.

It says that 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 upfront flood risk information. 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 to advise people of the steps they should take in the meantime to stay informed about the flood risk of properties they are considering.

‘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,’ said ABI director general Huw Evans.

‘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,’ he pointed out.

‘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,’ he explained.

‘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,’ he added.

He also pointed out that 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 that more information is being made available. ‘Flooding can devastate lives, homes and businesses. It 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,’ he confirmed.

‘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,’ he added.

Environment Agency data shows that 2.4 million properties in England are currently at risk of river or coastal flooding, an additional three million properties are at risk of surface water flooding, and 600,000 of these are at risk of both.

Following the winter floods of 2013/2014, insurers paid out more than £450 million in flood claims. Five of the top six wettest years on record have happened since 2000.