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Flooding Risk and its effect

08th June 2016

It is estimated that there are 5.2 million properties at risk of flooding in England alone according to a recent publication by the Environment Agency.  In most cases flood insurance is available through your standard provider as part of your buildings and contents cover. However, areas at risk of flooding may be subject to much higher premiums and excesses or you may find that insurers will not cover them at all.  Commercial premises are particularly affected as their needs differ from domestic use.

So, it is important to be aware of any potential flood issues when you are purchasing or leasing a property.  A variety of flood risk information is available online for free – the Environment Agency website being a good place to start. However, there are several commercial searches that can be ordered for a cost which summarise and provide further guidance which can be useful.  Those searches should be done during the pre-contract investigations so that your legal advisor can provide you with further information for investigation and ask the seller/landlord for more information.  The result should be shared with your surveyor and insurance broker as well for further advice before you commit yourself to the property.

A new Government Scheme to help support households at highest flood risk (Flood Re) has been launched to assist in insurance cover, however it only covers residential properties, so commercial owners and occupiers remain exposed.

You may think you are safe because the property is not near a river or the sea, but do not underestimate ground water and surface water flooding that can cause just as much damage.  Furthermore, if the property that you are looking to occupy is next to any form of water course (again think beyond rivers and streams to include such things as ditches, ponds, drains etc.) you may also be a ‘repairing owner’ and assume additional rights and responsibilities.  These include keeping the boundary within the water course free from obstructions that impede normal water flow as well as other rights and responsibilities under statute and bylaw.  Do not assume that a lack of knowledge will save you.

With this in mind, investigation, survey and physical inspection before you acquire a property are imperative to make sure you are aware of any issues, are fully informed of your risk and understand what you can do to mitigate it before any flood occurs.

Danii Jhurry-Wright. Partner, commercial property department.

Business, Commercial Property, General, George Ide, News
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