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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
Is flooding covered by my home insurance? What isn't covered? What about burst pipes? What is groundwater flooding? How likely am I to be flooded? Do I live in a flood risk area?
What is a flood zone? Can I get home insurance if I live in a flood-risk area? How can I get the best flood insurance? How can I reduce my property's flood risk? Flooding: your questions answered

Is flooding covered by my home insurance?

Flooding can cause devastating damage to your property and possessions, incurring repair costs that can run easily into tens of thousands of pounds.

Fortunately, flood cover is a standard feature of home insurance. A typical buildings policy provides cover - at least in principle - for damage caused by floodwater entering your home from an external source. This can include:

  • a river or canal bursting its banks
  • storms and high tide
  • heavy rainfall.

If you've elected to buy contents insurance, your possessions are also covered.

As well as paying to replace what you've lost, policies generally also include cover for temporary accommodation if your home has been made uninhabitable.

 
What isn't covered?

While flood cover is a standard feature of home insurance, nothing is without caveats. It's prudent to double check what your policy contains (and doesn't) before buying. Three elements to look out for include:

Exclusions

If you live in a high-risk flood area, or your home has flooded in the past, the quotes you're offered by some insurance firms may exclude flood cover - or add a high excess.

Parts of your property

Certain parts of your property, such as its outbuildings or fences, might be left out or be optional.

Groundwater

Only a minority of policies cover groundwater flooding. See below for more on what groundwater flooding is.

What about burst pipes?

Water damage caused by leaks within your property tend to be dealt with under different sections of your policy than flood cover. 

If a pipe bursts in your home - for instance, due to cold weather - and creates an urgent problem, you can use 'home emergency cover' (sometimes optional within policies) to arrange and pay for a plumber to be dispatched and repair the leak. 

If a pipe, taps or other parts of your plumbing leak because of general wear and tear, they're less likely to be covered, although insurers will typically pay for resulting damage to your home or possessions. This cover is referred to as 'escape of water'. 

Another element of cover that many insurers offer is called 'trace and access'. This pays for an inspection of your property to locate the source of a leak. 

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's 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 don't cover groundwater flooding as part of a home insurance policy.

Unfortunately, it's 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 likely am I to be flooded?

According to the Environment Agency, more than 5.2 million homes are at risk of flooding in England alone – and, with increasingly volatile weather, that number is expected to rise.

Aviva estimates that around one in seven UK properties are at risk of flooding.

When considering whether to accept you as a customer or how much to charge you, home insurers will look at data about the likelihood of your property flooding. Among other things, this assessment can include how near you are to a body of water such as a river or the sea, local flood defences, and the history of flooding in the area.

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 showing areas that may be at risk of flooding from rivers and seas.

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 those 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 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 a 0.5% or higher chance of flooding from the sea.

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

If you live in an area that's at high risk of flooding, you should still be able to access affordable home insurance that covers you for flooding.

While this didn't used to be the case for many homeowners, a government-backed scheme called Flood Re has existed since 2016 to help insurers cover people living in flood-prone areas.

Flood Re

All insurers pay into Flood Re through an industry levy. If an insurer considers a customer to be particularly high risk, it can 'cede' that customer's flood cover to Flood Re - meaning Flood Re will pay out if that customer goes on to make a flood claim.

Not everyone benefits from Flood Re. It doesn't cover commercial properties or homes built from 1 January 2009.

Around 90% of home insurers use Flood Re to take on high-risk customers. These include: Admiral, Aviva, AXAChurchill, Direct LineHalifax, HSBC, Legal & General, LV, Lloyds Bank, More Than, Nationwide and Privilege, among others.

You can find the whole list on the Flood Re website.

If you're eligible for Flood Re cover, all you'll need to do to benefit is buy insurance from a participating insurer - either directly or via comparison sites. However, because not all insurers participate, if you live in an area of high flood risk it's still crucial to check that the quotes you're offered contain flood cover.

If you're having trouble finding an insurer that will offer you flood cover for your property, you might consider trying a specialist broker. The British Insurance Brokers' Association has an online tool and helpline to assist you. 

How can I get the best flood insurance?

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

In the reviews, you can see what cover each provider offers for trace and access, alternative accommodation, groundwater, burst pipes and lots of other features.

How can I reduce my property's flood risk?

There are several ways to help protect your home against flooding - often known as flood 'resistance' and 'resilience' measures. Resistance measures are products and adaptations designed to stop floodwater entering your property. Resilience measures, meanwhile, are designed to reduce the damage flood water does if it does get into your property. 

Not all will be suitable for your home or circumstances, so you should seek advice from a flood-risk consultant or an independent flood-risk surveyor. 

Some resistance measures include:

  • flood barriers or flood-proof doors
  • installing non-return valves into drainage pipes to avoid sewage backing up into the house.
  • installing airbrick covers.

Resilience measures include:

  • water-resilient paints and plasters
  • raised electrical sockets
  • pumping systems.

If you live in an area that's facing flooding, other good-practice precautions include:

  • safely locking away outdoor furniture that may float or blow away
  • putting valuables, electrical goods and important documents either upstairs or in high cupboards
  • making a list of emergency numbers, including your local council, your insurers and Floodline (which you can reach on 0345 988 1188).

Flooding: your questions answered

 

Do I need flood insurance if I don't live near water?

 

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 such as 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.

 

Should tenants get insurance to protect against 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.

 

Do students need home insurance to protect against flooding?

 

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

It's 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.

 

Do I need flood insurance if I work from home?

 

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 make sure you get the right level of cover.

Be mindful that Flood Re - and hence many insurers - don't cover properties used for business purposes (ie if you pay business rates).

 

How do I make a claim after a flood?

 

No one wants to have to make a claim on their home insurance, but if you're 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 crowd when the going gets tough.

 

How do I appeal an insurer's decision?

 

If you make a flood claim and you feel your insurer has treated you unfairly, don't be afraid to make a complaint.

Speak to your insurer first, but if it isn't proving helpful (and you have exhausted the complaints process), take the matter up with the Financial Ombudsman. 

 

What if I have more questions?

 

If you have any more questions about contents insurance, get in touch with our experts on the Which? Money helpline


 

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