Call for flood risk warnings on property websites and house adverts


House hunters should be given traffic light-style warnings on property websites and in adverts to show the risk of a home flooding, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said.

The ABI said there is also currently a lack of flood risk information on brochures for new-build properties.

A survey of more than 2,000 people for the ABI found more than nine in 10 (91%) people agree that prospective home buyers should be notified about the flood risk of properties in estate agents' materials and/or on property websites.

The ABI said estate agents and property search websites should automatically provide traffic light-style information indicating the flood risk for the locations of the homes they list, based on publicly-available Environment Agency data.

While this open flooding data is available for England and Wales, it is not available in Scotland and Northern Ireland to be used in the same way. 

Flood risk information should also be provided in the marketing for new-build properties, the ABI said. Research by the ABI of sales material in 50 of the highest flood risk areas in England and Wales, many of which have been hit by serious flooding in recent years, found none included any warnings about flood risk.

ABI director general Huw Evans said areas with higher flooding risks tend to have higher insurance premiums.

He said: "With one in six homes at risk of flooding, we need to make thinking about flood risk as much part of the home buying process as school catchment areas and transport links.

"At the moment, information on whether a property is at risk of flooding comes too late, often when people have already invested hundreds if not thousands of pounds in the conveyancing process.

"That's why we are calling for those who sell properties to include new traffic light warnings on flood risk in a property's area.

"You can currently get more information about what paper your new neighbours might read than if a particular property might be at flood risk."

The ABI said fees for local searches by a solicitor and a survey for a lender can add up to around £500 - before crucial flood risk information about a potential new home is uncovered.

It said Environment Agency data shows that 2.4 million properties in England are currently at risk of river or coastal flooding, while a further three million properties are at risk of surface water flooding, and 600,000 of these are at risk of both.

Following the winter floods of 2013/14, insurers paid out more than £450 million in flood claims.

Floods minister Rory Stewart said: "Flooding can devastate lives, homes and businesses. That's why we are investing in flood protection at record levels, with an unprecedented six-year commitment of £2.3 billion to better protect an additional 300,000 homes by 2021.

"It is important that everyone has access to the right information, including the flood risk in their area, so they can make fully informed decisions when buying a home.

"We are making more data and technology available to help people plan and prepare for potential floods, such as the Environment Agency's free Flood Warnings Service and our advanced flood mapping and forecasting."

Mark Hayward, managing director of the National Association of Estate Agents, said: "We absolutely support the ABI's initiative - buying a house is a massive financial commitment and one of the biggest decisions you have to face in life, so house hunters should have as much information available as possible.

"Under the consumer protection from unfair trading regulations, estate agents are obliged to make consumers aware of anything that may affect their transactional decision. The ABI's proposed traffic light system would be a clear way of facilitating this.

"Unfortunately flooding is something out of the consumers control, but having the correct information to make an informed decision about risk levels ahead of buying a property should be mandatory."

A Local Government Association spokesman said: "Councils are at the sharp end of responding to and managing flooding and are going the extra mile to prepare and protect their communities.

"Local authorities are also doing everything they can to alleviate the risk to residents, which includes working hard to establish and maintain evidence-based local flood risk strategies."