Avoiding flood risk when home buying

Many people dream of buying a property in the countryside and although houses in rural locations have considerable advantages, they also carry risks. One in six homes in England are at risk from flooding, and rural properties are particularly vulnerable to flooding from burst river banks, and surface and groundwater flooding.

Philip Taylor

'Climate change is bringing more extreme weather to the UK, leaving many homes vulnerable to flooding' says Philip Taylor, Residential Property Licensed Conveyancer at Pearsons & Ward Solicitors in Malton 'getting sound advice about flood risk before you purchase a rural property is essential.'

Flooding in rural areas

Rural properties can be susceptible to flooding from a variety of sources such as heavy rain causing surface water flooding, particularly in low-lying areas. There is also the risk of water from beneath the ground rising to the surface causing groundwater flooding. Ditches and culverts can also cause problems when the ground is saturated and has nowhere to go.

If you are considering buying a house in a remote or rural location, it is a good idea to consider the risk of flooding at an early stage. Flooding can have a devastating effect on a property and will have an impact on the cost of insurance and your ability to obtain a mortgage.

You should also consider the possible impact when you come to sell. You might be willing to accept the possibility that your rural idyll by the edge of a stream is at risk of flooding. However, a history of flooding or inflated insurance premiums could put off future buyers.

Finding out about the flood risk

If you have found a property that you are interested in, it is your responsibility to find out as much as you can about it. You should ask the seller if the property has ever flooded, and also speak to the owners of neighbouring land to see if they have ever had any problems. The seller is obliged to tell you if they are aware of any previous floods that have affected the property.

You should always consider having a building survey carried out on a rural property. The surveyor will carry out a physical inspection of the property and look for evidence of flooding. If your purchase moves forward, your solicitor will ask specifically about flood risks in the standard pre-contract enquiries, as well as whether any insurance claims have been made.

Conveyancing searches

When you move into the process of buying the property, your solicitor will carry out searches and enquiries to determine whether there is a risk of flooding. They will liaise with you about which flood searches may be appropriate. The Environment Agency and Land Registry both provide general information about the risk of flooding from watercourses and surface water.

However, these sources do not include the risk of groundwater flooding which can be a particular issue in rural areas, and they do not pinpoint specific properties. If you are buying a rural property in a low-lying area for example, or there is a history of flooding in the locality, your solicitor may suggest obtaining a more specific environmental report.

Specialist surveys

If the conveyancing searches highlight a risk of flooding, even if it is low, a specialist flood risk survey can be commissioned to provide you with full details of the risk. This is particularly important when previous flooding is known or suspected, because groundwater can have a long-term effect on a property long after repair work has been completed. A flood risk survey can also provide information about the steps you can take to limit the possibility of re-occurrence, and it can also be useful to provide this to your insurers.

If you are buying a property with the help of a mortgage, your lender may well have additional requirements if the property has suffered from flooding or is at risk. If you discover that the property has experienced flooding in the past, your solicitor will check if it is protected by a Flood Defence Scheme which may have reduced the risk.

Insurance

It can be extremely disappointing to discover that the house of your dreams could be at risk of flooding. However, it does not have to stop you from buying the property as long as you are aware of the problem. Areas that are at risk from flooding often bring higher insurance premiums and some insurance companies simply will not insure a property if it has been flooded in the past. Your mortgage lender will require you to have adequate insurance in place from exchange of contracts, so you need to make sure you can obtain sufficient cover at the start of the process.

For more information on flood risk, or any enquiries regarding residential conveyancing, please contact Philip Taylor on 01653 692247 or email Philip.Taylor@pearslaw.co.uk to see how we can assist.