UK weather: Counting the cost of the destruction from the wettest winter in a hundred years


Simon Read,Ian Johnston
Tuesday 11 February 2014 20:52 GMT


People whose houses have been flooded but do not have insurance should be given money from council “hardship funds”, the Prime Minister has said.

David Cameron also warned insurance companies that they needed to “pay up the money fast” and urged people to contact their MPs if the cash was not received promptly. He spoke as the insurance industry said the cost of the recent floods could top £1.5bn and end up adding around £15 to average annual household cover.

Mr Cameron said that “every local authority affected needs to have a hardship fund”.

“If there is a need to top up those hardship funds then they can come to us and we can have a look at that,” he said. “Generally speaking, hardship funds have worked well for uninsured houses.”

A “bespoke grant system” offering several thousand pounds per household in affected areas will also be set up to enable people to improve flood defences as they rebuild, Mr Cameron added.

“We need to make sure the insurance loss adjusters get into those houses quickly, carry out the assessment, and pay up the money fast,” he said.

“In most cases, that is happening. If it isn’t happening I want local MPs to be told about it.”

An agreement between the Government and insurance industry, called Flood Re, is due to come into force next year. This will provide pay-outs on properties that insurers are unwilling to cover.

Those in flood-prone areas are expected to be hit with extra costs of £540 a year for the flood-insurance element of their buildings insurance.

House Prices

Homes that get flooded can see their values fall by as much as a fifth, especially if they are hit more than once. Potential buyers are obviously deterred by the clean-up costs and soaring insurance premiums.

But there’s little evidence that floods actually make a home unsellable. Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, for instance, was hit by severe floods in 2007 but while prices took a dip, average property values in the town have held up reasonably well. It’s a similar story at Cockermouth in Cumbria, which was hit by floods in 2009.

In fact some buyers look to flood-hit areas to pick up a bargain, reckoning that then spending a few grand on decent flood protection could make the deal worthwhile.

Alex Gosling, managing director of online estate agents HouseSimple, warned: “Homeowners may not see a noticeable drop in the price of their property if the flooding is a one-off event, but those with properties that are flooding repeatedly face the biggest headache.

“If buyers are going to struggle to secure mortgages on a property that has a high risk of flooding, or insurance premiums are going to be sky high, then that will have a detrimental impact on the price of the property. Plus it’s much easier for buyers these days to identify areas of flood.”

Homes that have not been flooded but are close to flood-hit areas could also find their property values falling as buyers prove reluctant to take the risk. The Environment Agency has suggested that one in six homes in England is now at risk of flooding – which potentially leaves millions facing a hit to their home’s value.

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