April 2, 2014

Were we hung out to dry over flooding?

Answer: It isn't always obvious that a property may be at risk of flooding. Many people do not realise that their home does not need to be by the sea or a river, or even on low-lying ground to be at risk, as the most common causes of flooding are surface water, ground water and overflowing sewers.

If a property is at risk of flooding then insurers can decline cover, or charge higher premiums and excesses, and impose conditions or unusual or stricter requirements. Having buildings insurance in place is a mortgage condition — so issues with insuring a property can affect whether or not it may be mortgaged. And if a property cannot be mortgaged, that can reduce its value.

Flood risk can be investigated by carrying out searches, raising enquiries of the seller, or by having a survey done.

When you bought your house, your solicitor should have had an environmental search carried out which would have indicated whether there was a flood risk. If there was, your solicitor may have recommended a more detailed flood report.

Your solicitor could also have suggested you contact the Environment Agency and look at the Land Registry flood indicator, although both of these are only concerned with river and coastal flooding.

Since May last year, the Property Information Form (form TA6) which a seller must complete contains questions relating to flooding. Prior to that date, a buyer's solicitor had to raise additional enquiries regarding the issue.

Most solicitors are not qualified to give advice on flood risk or to interpret technical flood reports. However, your solicitor should still have advised you regarding flood risk and its consequences, and at an early stage in the transaction should have advised you to look into buildings insurance so you could make sure cover could be obtained on acceptable and affordable terms.

Fiona McNulty is a partner in our Residential Property, Farms & Estates team. She is also the Legal Expert for the London Evening Standard Homes & Property and has a weekly column answering readers' questions. If you have any queries on flooding or any other property issue please contact Fiona on 01225 730 249  or [email protected]

Please note: This answer can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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