The British weather has never been known for its reliability, and in recent years it seems that flooding has become a regular occurrence. The impact for homeowners can be devastating, not least because of the effect a flood has on insurance premiums.
If you are concerned about flooding or would like to know what you can do to minimise any potential problems, here's what you can do.
Am I at risk?
The top 12 areas at risk of flooding were recently revealed by the Association of British Insurers. Currently topping the list were Boston and Skegness, with over 7,500 homes considered to be at risk. The Vale of Clwyd and Colwyn Bay in Wales are also at risk, along with Aberconwy.
In Kent, Folkestone and Hythe, where 7,000 homes are on the at risk list, Sittingbourne and Sheppey, and Canterbury all feature in the top 12 areas. Runnymede and Weybridge in Surrey, Windsor on the River Thames, and Great Yarmouth on the east coast are also considered at risk, while Nottingham South, now home to the country's biggest inland flood defence, and Leeds Central complete the list.
Other areas will, of course, be at risk to a lesser degree, so to find out whether your home is in a potential problem area, visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk and check out the site's online flood risk map.
Given the greater likelihood of an insurance company having to pay out, those with homes in flood risk areas can find their premiums and excesses are sky high. Worse still, some may find they are unable to get insurance on the property at all, which has implications in terms of mortgages and ability to sell the property in the future.
Before they offer cover to those in flood risk areas, an insurance provider may ask for an Insurance Related Request (IRR) in order to assess the significance of the risk. An IRR letter will provide information about whether your property is within an at risk area, list any defences that are in place, and go into detail of the likelihood of flooding. It is free to obtain an IRR from the Environment Agency, who will respond to the request within 20 working days.
If you get no joy from standard insurance providers, there are specialist firms who will insure at risk properties. Try the British Insurance Brokers' Association at www.biba.org.uk for help and advice on finding an insurer to cover your property. It is best to begin armed with as much information about the local area and your property in particular, in terms of flood risk and defences, and a survey may be necessary.
What can I do?
Though you will not be able to eradicate your risk of flooding, you can reduce the impact it has, and these measures will undoubtedly be looked upon favourably by insurers.
Flood resistance products such as flood boards, air-brick covers and flood-proof doors and barriers are available, but before you spend any serious money, it is worth getting a flood risk mitigation survey. The Flood Protection Association, thefpa.org.uk, offers plenty of useful information, including details of companies that can provide both flood assessments and products. Alternatively, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors may be able to point you in the direction of an independent flood risk specialist.
Lastly, the Environment Agency also provides a free 'flood plan' template, as well as a checklist of things you can do to mitigate the risk to your property.
As well as reducing the risk to your individual property, it is an idea to consider joining a local flood action group to look at ways of preparing the whole area in the event of flooding.
The National Flood Forum is an independent organisation that provides support and advice for those in affected areas, and can also help you to set up your own group. It is also worth contacting your local authority directly, to discuss any proposed plans to manage flooding in the area, what that means in terms of protection, and when such a scheme may be implemented.
If your area has suffered regular problems, you may even want to enlist the help of local councillors or MPs, who can help to secure funding for a flood alleviation scheme.
Do you live in a flood risk area, and have you managed to secure insurance for your home? Leave your comments below...