Practice Note – Flooding

The Law Society issued a revised version of the Practice Note on Flood Risk on 18th December 2014 as a best practice guide for solicitors and conveyancers.

The Environment Agency estimate that 5.2 million properties in England and Wales are at risk of one or multiple sources of flooding, equating to 1 in 6 homes.

Aside from physical damage to a property, if a property is at risk of flooding it may be difficult to:

  • Obtain suitable insurance cover
  • Obtain a mortgage
  • Sell the property in the future

As solicitors are not qualified to give advice on flood risk or interpret technical flood reports, this practice note provides solicitors with information to help clients understand their flood risk and identify relevant searches, reports and investigations that may be required to mitigate the risks of property transactions in flood prone areas, as well as assisting clients in investigating the terms on which buildings insurance cover, including flood risk, is available, prior to entering into contractual commitments.

In all conveyancing transactions, when acting for a prospective buyer, tenant or lender, a solicitor should mention the issue of flooding to the client and where appropriate make further investigations.

These investigations include:

  • Conducting searches using a professional organisation such as GroundSure
  • Making enquiries of the seller, however Caveat emptor should be applied here
  • Instructing a valuer or surveyor to carry out an appropriate physical inspection, and to provide advice on the impact of flooding.

River, coastal, surface water and reservoir flooding information for the general area is available to view free of charge on the Environment Agency’s website. However, these maps do not provide information on a specific property’s flood risk. Commercial providers such as GroundSure are increasingly providing dedicated flood searches or combined environmental and flood searches as standard in conveyancing transactions. Solicitors should ensure they are advising clients that they are not qualified to advise on technical matters regarding the results and any queries should be raised with the search provider.

GroundSure’s unique risk alert service will notify when a flood report is required, reducing the inconvenience of ordering additional reports when not necessary.

GroundSure’s reports and follow-up consultancy services ensures solicitors client care requirements are met without contributing to their workload. The GroundSure Flood report provides information on the risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water and groundwater as well as providing an insurability rating for the property giving the client an indication of available insurance. This level of Flood data is also included within the GroundSure Homebuyers (Residential) and GroundSure Review (Commercial) reports.

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