Climate Change Heat Is on for Landlords

Property investors should be ready for a doomsday scenario of heatwaves, flooding, wildfires and storms devastating the country as the impact of climate change worsens.

Extreme weather can severely damage homes, and insufficient defences heighten the chances of destruction.

But the UK is not ready for heavier rainfall or the effects of flooding, says Ian Paton, a building surveyor with property firm Cluttons.

The British weather is changing, he says.

Forecasters work on the concept of a 100-year flood - the chance of a severe flood will only occur once in a century. Many places now see 100-year floods more regularly, and United Nations climate change experts predict Britain will see 10 per cent more rainfall by 2100.

Flooding will only get worse.

Climate change lobbyists Greenpeace argues that the risk of flooding will only increase as rainfall is less frequent but much heavier.

Paton said: “The UK is on the whole ill-prepared for the event or effects of flooding. That is largely because flooding is not always associated just with rivers and must be considered from all sources, often resultant from surface water flooding due to agricultural practices, development and hard landscaping.”

Cluttons wants more landlords to order flood assessments to protect their properties and tenants.

The firm claims older properties are the most vulnerable to flooding, but retro-fitting defences give owners and tenants peace of mind.

Paton said: “As flooding has the most devastating consequences and has experienced a rise in incidence and severity in the UK over recent years, we would urge people to get a risk assessment, not just when buying property, but to protect their existing property. As new flood areas become apparent from modelling flood risk, it is crucial to know what can be done and what cover insurers will provide.

Weathering the storm

“New developers should consider designing for flood and installing flood defences on developments that are close to a flood plain. We would like to see landlords and developers take the lead in putting in flood defences now, rather than as an afterthought or a fix after the problem.”

Landlords can miss if a property faces the risk of flooding because maps are regularly updated.

He added: “We would like to see more of the private sector taking the initiative and working together to futureproof the UK’s property assets.

“Responsibility is a huge part of a environmental, social and governance issues for companies. Landlords, insurers, developers, and homeowners all have a role to play in preparing and weathering the storms, rather than relying on local authorities and legislators to tell us what to do when. This will undoubtedly save huge cost and potential devastation in the future.”

Is your property a flood risk?

Landlords can determine a property's rating as a flood risk by putting the address in a free online tool. The data is split by country, so click the link for where you live:

Comparison website Quotezone explains some insurers will cancel policies if landlords claim for flood damage without insurance.

A home is described as a high risk if the location is near a river, canal or coastline prone to flooding. Some insurers refuse to cover homes on a floodplain, while those that do may charge a higher premium.

Insuring a high-risk home

Landlords must tell their insurer if a buy-to-let home is within 400 metres of a watercourse, even if no flooding has occurred. Sometimes, a home is logged as high risk if neighbours have previously claimed flood damage.

Comparison site Go Compare! worked out that the average annual cost of home insurance for homes within 150 metres of water is £182, while those more than 400 metres away were £25 a year cheaper at £157 a year.

Carrying out a flood risk assessment and installing defences, like flood-proof doors fitted professionally to industry standards.

Adding rent loss cover to landlord insurance is worth thinking about. The policy includes a clause guarding against loss of rent should the tenants move out due to flooding.

Don't forget tenant possessions are not covered by landlord insurance, so renters need their policy.

Insuring a buy-to-let for flood risk FAQ

What is flood risk insurance?

Insuring against flood damage is part of every landlord's buildings insurance policy. The cover covers the cost of damage, losses and repairs caused by flood water.

Government help for flood-risk homes

A government website offers help in finding insurance for flood-risk homes. The site also has tips on what to do if a home is flooded and how to install flood defences.

Flood risk maps are available to download from the Environmental Agency website.

How is flood risk worked out?

Insurers calculate a flood factor based on the likelihood of one inch of flood water reaching the building footprint within 30 years. Other factors like flood history, height above sea level and closeness to water are considered.

My house flooded, and I don't have insurance.

Some hardship cash is available for homes without flood insurance. They include crisis grants and help with finding temporary accommodation.

Citizens Advice can help with applications.

What is Flood Re?

Flood Re is a joint program between the government and home insurers which aims to make the cover more affordable for homeowners with properties at risk of flooding.

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Buildings insurance covers the risk of damage to the structure and permanent fixtures and fittings of a building, for example, due to a fire. If the property is leasehold, the freeholder will typically arrange the building's insurance and re-charge the cost to lessees.