In view of the increasing likelihood and seriousness of the flooding risk to some properties, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors recommends that property owners and prospective purchasers, should be aware of any flood risk to their property.

Prospective purchasers should note, that detailed Flood Risk Surveys are not currently mandatory in the searches carried out for the standard property searches.

The first check that you should do and which does not cost anything, is to investigate whether your property is in a river, or coastal flood risk area, on the Environment Agency website www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

These maps give a general guide only and are not accurate down to individual properties. They show areas at risk and if so, whether there are considered to be adequate flood defences in place. However, they do not take into account local variations and physical features, or the height of the property’s lowest floor above the surrounding ground levels, so the risk of flooding to individual properties, within these risk areas is varied – one property with a low-lying ground floor, or a basement, may be vulnerable, whilst their neighbouring property, on slightly higher ground, may be at a much smaller risk. Also, they do not give information on surface water or ground water which accounts for 50% of UK flooding. For example, the Hull flooding in 2007, was mainly as a result of surface water flooding.

The Environment Agency maps, will give you a risk factor for your property, based on its post code. If your post code is in an area identified as being at risk of flooding, the risk is graded as low, moderate or significant. For a more accurate assessment of flood risk, you can go to a specialist search provider, who for a small fee, will provide you with a more detailed, property-specific report. This will determine the risks from the different types of flooding, including local ground water and surface water flooding risks, which are not currently included in the Environment Agency’s Flood Risk maps. However, this type of report will not identify how flood water may enter and damage the property itself, as it does not involve a survey of the property and therefore does not take into account such factors, as whether there is a basement or how the structure and contents of the property will be affected by a flood.

Prospective purchasers should enquire of the vendor, whether there have been any incidents of flooding to the property in the past, or any related insurance claims and if so, when and with what additional consequences. This is necessary, because there may be issues about the property’s insurability for flood risk, which will also impact on the ability to raise a mortgage on the property and hence its value.

A suitably experienced Chartered Surveyor, will carry out a detailed survey of the property and report on the likely impact of a flood on the property and contents, with recommendations on the steps which may be taken to reduce or eliminate these adverse effects, in the event of a flood. For more information visit www.rics.org/flooding.

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