Flood History – Knowing the Full Story

During the past 75 years, over 5,000 square kilometres of England* has been recorded to have flooded at least once. That equates to an area three times the size of Greater London, or a footprint greater than the whole of Kent.

Regions across the entire country have previously been affected by flooding, with many of these comprising developed areas where people live and where businesses operate. This is mainly attributed to the way towns and cities developed along river corridors and coastal regions during and following the industrial revolution.

Finding out the flood history of a particular property or street can be challenging however, and this is not helpful when applying for a mortgage or property insurance. Flood records can be anecdotal, mis-guiding, often lacking detailed evidence as to the causes and actual extent of flooding.

Flood severity is expected to increase in the future largely due to climate change which can have severe consequences for residential and commercial properties. Understanding what has happened in the past can often lead to much better flood resilience in future.  This is why it is so important to fully understand the flood history of a property and potential future risks when completing a purchase.

Aaron Jones, Director Ashfield Solutions Group explains:

“Understandably alarm bells ring as soon as a property search flags up flood history in that particular area. This can lead to buyers getting cold feet and pulling out of the purchase without necessarily understanding the full picture. Flood history within an area can often be ambiguous or dis-jointed, which is something Ashfield are well versed in dealing with. Being equipped with an enhanced level of insight and an expert eye can potentially lead to either legitimising this risk, or potentially downplaying its original significance. This enhances the buyer’s confidence to either halt or proceed with the purchase, as well as improving their chances of securing affordable insurance and a better mortgage deal.”

It is widely recognised that flood threats are rising, with the UK having experienced six of the ten wettest years on record since 1998 (Met Office, 2020) and overall, the period 2010-2019 has been 5% wetter than 1961-1990 (Met Office, 2020). Even in the summer months the UK experiences flash floods leading to extensive property damage each year.

During the property sales process, the vendor will be asked within the TA6 Law Society Property Information Form: 7.1 Has any part of the property (whether buildings or surrounding garden or land) ever been flooded? If yes, please state when the flooding occurred and identify the parts that flooded”. A vendor who has lived in the same property for twenty years will likely be able to provide a more complete account of flood history compared to one that may have only lived there for three years meaning that understanding the fill picture is not always easy.

There are several factors which may have resulted in a property having previously flooded, such as from a blockage of a nearby culvert or bridge, an adjacent river bursting its banks, or even a surcharged sewer or highways drain. If a property has been flagged as having previously experienced flooding, it may forever have this record attached to it, even if remedial works have been undertaken to reduce or even avoid a similar event in future.

Furthermore, the recent property boom thanks in large to the Stamp Duty Holiday has seen a surge in sales and Zoopla have forecast total sale completions to reach 1.52 million in 2021. As a result, conveyancers are being placed under more pressure than ever before, so getting clarity on a flood history issue can cause unwanted time pressures.

Fortunately, there are steps that conveyancing practitioners can take to ensure that their clients are fully aware of the risks and, better still, protected when purchasing a property. Ordering a flood report can provide greater confidence to the homebuyer, as well as help them in getting affordable insurance or a better mortgage deal. The analysis undertaken as part of reports like the FCI Flood Appraisal is backed by a comprehensive flood history database, coupled with expert analysis by a flood consultant, giving much greater clarity and confidence to the buyer.


*Environment Agency Recorded Flood Outline Open Database

Today's Conveyancer