The devastating upheaval caused by last week’s torrential rain and floods in London and southern England as two months’ rain fell in two hours was put into stark perspective by the worst flooding in decades in Germany and Belgium, which has left at least 188 people dead, sweeping away houses and leaving residents trapped in rising waters.
Climate scientists have been shocked at the intensity and magnitude of the recent floods across Europe. But as climate change is expected to make unpredictable and extreme weather, including heavy rain, more common, it’s clear that both governments and property owners need to step up their planning and preparedness.
The torrential rain may have given way to a mini heat wave in the south of England for now, but with unsettled and changeable weather on the horizon, there is no room for complacency. As Steve Barnes, Associate Director at LandlordZONE insurance partner, Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance, highlights.
“Although the floods in England cannot be compared with the devastation that has occurred in Europe, the destruction and chaos suffered by those affected is horrendous.
“We’ve received several claims relating to floods in the South of England over the past week due to exceptionally high levels of rainfall which were almost unprecedented.
“In one London incident relating to the flooding of three basement flats last Monday, the sewers in the road outside the property were unable to cope and sewage backed up, emerging from the toilets and baths. Each flat was inundated with water to a depth of around 30cm as the drains were unable to carry the rainwater away.”
Flash flood case study
Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance has also received claims relating to flash floods in the Peterborough area, which were widely reported in the media last week. Again, backed-up sewer pipes and water drains caused sewer water to enter a lot of properties in the area, with many having to be evacuated.
Melissa Choules, Senior Claims Technician at Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance (pictured), describes an incident relating to a fresh claim the company has received.
“The tenant was working and did not return to the property until the following morning, when she discovered that the water level outside the rear door was up to one meter and the water inside had reached a height of 60cm,” she says
“Not surprisingly, the damage is extensive – the laminate floor throughout the property will need to be removed to enable sanitisation and drying works to the concrete slabs and walls. All joinery items, including skirting boards, doorframes, doors, base units and worktops, will need to be removed and replaced.
“Plasterboard in every room will require removal up to one meter high. The kitchen base units and panels will also all need replacing. Damage caused by severe weather can be very expensive to rectify – our average claim for flash floods is £17,708, so it pays to be protected.”
As heavy rain continues to wreak havoc in Europe, Germany’s government has hit back at criticism over its ‘fragmented’ warning systems, which meant that in some places people didn’t realise the floods were coming or know how to respond to protect themselves and their homes.
Speaking to the BBC, Friederike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said urgent education was needed on the risks of flooding.
“I think people are really not aware that weather can actually be deadly,” she said. “The fact that so many soils are sealed also leads to more dramatic impacts than would be the case if the water could go somewhere,” she added.
Steve Barnes emphasizes that landlords also have an important role to play in educating themselves and their tenants and implementing measures to protect their tenants and their properties against the risk of flooding.
“With extreme weather events increasing steadily over recent years, it’s vital for landlords to not only do as much as possible to prevent flooding in the first place, but to make sure they communicate with their tenants and are properly covered for flood damage,” he says.
“Provide tenants in at-risk areas with a decent supply of sandbags, and make sure your tenants know what to do in the event of a flood – for example, how to turn off the gas, electricity and water. These recent floods and unpredictable weather highlight the need for landlords and tenants to be prepared at all times – as we’ve seen, flash floods can occur with little warning.
“The best way to reduce the likelihood of damage to your property is through regular maintenance. If you take the right preventative measures and have comprehensive landlord insurance in place, you can be confident that you’re doing all you can to protect your tenants and your business.”
Landlords should be aware that they are legally responsible for maintaining and repairing external structures, including drains and gutters, so it’s particularly important to make sure they are kept clear of debris that might cause a blockage and lead to leaks or overflow to the property. Make sure tenants always inform you if repairs are needed so that you can address the issue.
It’s also a good idea to sign up for flood warnings. These will warn you of the risk of flooding from rivers, the sea and groundwater. You’ll be alerted by phone, email or text when flooding is expected.
You can find out more about how to protect your rental property from severe weather in Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance’s comprehensive guides, Protecting your rental property against storms and Measures that must be taken to prevent flooding in your properties.
The importance of landlord insurance
Having comprehensive landlord insurance in place provides reassurance that you and your property are protected should the worst happen and you need to carry out expensive repairs. Check your insurance to make sure your landlord buildings and contents insurance includes flood damage and make sure your tenant knows that it’s their responsibility to protect their belongings with their own contents insurance.
A comprehensive policy like Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance’s Premier policy will not only cover the cost or repair work, but also loss of rent or alternative accommodation.
As a valued LandlordZONE reader you’re entitled to 20% off Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance’s policies, call the team today on 0800 63 43 880 quoting code LZ2021 or get a quote online in under 4 minutes.