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Home insurance: flooding

Find out how to check if your property is at risk of flooding and how this might affect your home insurance policy.

In this article
What is flooding? What is a flood zone? Do I live in a flood risk area? Is flooding covered by my home insurance?
Can I get home insurance if I live in a flood risk area? What is groundwater flooding? How can I reduce my property's flood risk? Flooding: your questions answered

What is flooding?

Flooding occurs when water enters - or builds up in - a property at a slow and steady pace.

It’s important to remember that flooding does not always have to be caused by a natural disaster, such as a storm.

Flooding can be happen as a result of:

  • A burst pipe
  • A river or canal bursting its banks
  • Storms and high tide
  • Heavy rainfall

What is a flood zone?

Flood zones, which were created by the Environment Agency, are used to work out how likely a particular area is to flood.

The zones only refer to areas at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea - although not all rivers have been included in calculating the zones.

There are three different flood zones - areas in flood zone 1 are least likely to experience flooding during the year whereas areas in flood zone 3 are most likely to experience flooding during the year.

Flood zone 1

Flood zone 1 includes areas that have less than 0.1% chance of flooding in any year.

Flood zone 2

Flood zone 2 includes areas that have between 0.1%-1% chance of flooding from rivers in any year and 0.1%-0.5% chance of flooding from the sea.

Flood zone 3

Flood zone 3 includes areas that have a 1% or higher chance of flooding from rivers and 0.5% or higher chance of flooding from the sea.

Do I live in a flood risk area?

Depending on where you live, there are different online resources to help you find out if your property is located in a flood risk area.  

England

If you live in England, you can check the Environment Agency website to find out if your home is at risk of flooding.

Wales

Residents in Wales can check the Natural Resources Wales website to find out whether a property is in a flood risk area.

Scotland

If you live in Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) website will be able to tell you if you live in a flood risk area.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Rivers Agency can help you find out if your home is in a flood risk area.

All four websites have maps which show areas that may be at risk of flooding from rivers and seas.

Is flooding covered by my home insurance?

Most buildings insurance policies cover flooding as standard, which will protect damage to the structure of your property.

You will also need to have contents insurance - which covers the cost of replacing your belongings - if you would like your possessions to be protected against flood damage as well.

Our home insurance reviews show how we rate the standard contents insurance and buildings insurance policies of 31 providers, and how the providers were rated by their customers.

Members can log in to see the results of our analysis. If you’re not already a member, you can sign up to a two month trial for Which? Money for just £1 to access this review, along with thousands of others, and enjoy the benefits of a Which? membership.

Can I get home insurance if I live in a flood risk area?

Currently insurers cannot refuse to cover homes at risk of being flooded as long as the government continues to fund flood defences in that region.

Properties in at-risk flood areas do often end up paying more for cover.

As a result of this, a new scheme called Flood Re, was launched in April 2016 to ensure that homeowners with properties at risk of flooding provided more affordable cover.

The government-backed scheme reduces the amount insurers would be liable to pay out for flood claims and should make insurance more affordable for people living in high risk flood areas.

If you live in a flood prone area, the following companies should be able to help you find affordable home insurance: Admiral, Avantia, Aviva, Bank of Scotland, Cherish Home Insurance, Churchill, Direct Line, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Legal & General, LV, Lloyds Bank, More Than, Nationwide and Privilege.

The full list can be found on the Flood Re website.

You can buy cover in the normal way - either through a comparison site or direct from the insurer.

What is groundwater flooding?

When it rains, the soil soaks up the water like a sponge. Groundwater occurs when some of this water trickles further downwards into rocks.

Once these rocks become saturated, they form what is known as a water table.

Groundwater flooding occurs when heavy rainfall causes the water table to rise and makes it difficult for storm sewers and drainage networks to function properly.

Most home insurance providers do not cover groundwater flooding as part of a home insurance policy.

Unfortunately, it is not always clear from insurance policy documents whether groundwater flooding is covered so it’s best to check with your provider if you think you live in a susceptible area.

How can I reduce my property's flood risk?

There are a number of ways to help protect your home from flooding including:

  • Replacing timber floors with concrete and covering with tiles
  • Replacing chipboard/MDF kitchen and bathroom units with plastic equivalents
  • Moving boilers and electrical points well above the likely flood level
  • Installing one-way valves into drainage pipes to avoid sewage backing up into the house.

If you live in a moderate or high flood risk area these steps can help you to minimise damage to your property:

  • Clearing all debris from drains and gutters to allow rainfall to drain away
  • Safely locking away outdoor furniture that may float or blow away
  • Placing valuables, electrical goods and important documents either upstairs or in high cupboards
  • Buying air brick covers or flood boards to block doorways
  • Making a list of emergency numbers, including your local council, your insurers and Floodline (which can be reached on 0345 988 1188).

Flooding: your questions answered

You don’t need to live by the sea, a river or canal to be at risk of flooding - it can occur from unexpected incidents like a burst pipe or unusually heavy rainfall.

It’s important to check the level of cover available on your buildings insurance and contents insurance policies and some may even offer alternative accommodation if your home is affected by flooding.

While your landlord is responsible for the getting buildings insurance you will need to have a home contents insurance policy to protect your personal belongings in the event of a flood.

If you are a student, you will need to get home contents insurance policy to protect your personal belongings in the event of a flood.

It is worth checking whether your parents can extend their home insurance policy to cover you as well.

As long as your permanent address is your parent’s home, it may be possible to get insured against theft or loss.

This comes at an additional cost and can be done by adding cover for 'all risks' or 'unspecified personal possessions'  to the main policy.

If you work from home and already have a contents insurance policy, your home insurance provider may provide cover for items such as a work phone or laptop.

Specialist items such as expensive audio visual equipment that you use for work may not be insured as standard.

Some insurers will offer an 'all risks' policy which allows you to insure a wider range of items (such as home business equipment) for an additional premium.

It’s best to check with your home insurer to ensure you get the right level of cover.

No one wants to have to make a claim on their home insurance but should you be affected by flooding there are ways to make the process as smooth as possible.

Our making a home insurance claim guide tells you all you need to know about handling the claims process and which home insurance companies stand out from the pack when the going gets tough.

If you have any more questions about contents insurance, get in touch with our experts on the Which? Money helpline or email us using money-letters@which.co.uk.