Feature: Common Challenges and Disputes

Flood Risks for Blocks of Flats

Written by Darren Bagnall of Flat Living Insurance


The risks of floods may not spring to mind when you think about the issues you may face when managing or living in a block of flats, but it’s as much of a risk to high rise blocks as it is to any other building.

With flooding on the rise across the UK, property managers and leaseholders should make sure they’re aware of the risk to their building, know how to protect it as best they can and understand the implications when it comes to their insurance.

What Are the Risks of Flood to Blocks of Flats?

With flooding on the rise across the UK, property managers and leaseholders should make sure they’re aware of the risk to their building, know how to protect it as best they can and understand the implications when it comes to their insurance.

We’re used to seeing rows of terraced houses with sandbags at their doors on the news as yet another flood strikes, but the risk is just as real when it comes to blocks of flats. The ground floor may be most obviously in the firing line, but a flooded ground floor can affect the entire building; either through mild inconvenience or due to catastrophic damage to the integrity of the building itself.

The impact of floods for residents on all levels of apartment buildings can include:

  • Water damage to ground floor properties
  • Water damage to car parks, garages and sheds
  • Inaccessible entry and exit points
  • Disruption to utility services – gas, electricity, water and telephone supplies
  • Lift failures
  • Sewerage and drainage systems backing up
  • An increase in insurance premiums
  • Being moved to alternative accommodation

You may also think that buildings without a river or coastline in sight will carry a reduced risk, but maybe not. Heavy rain often causes flash floods in urban areas- including in London in July of this year which were largely blamed on surface water drainage issues, and experts believe the issue will only worsen as the climate crisis continues. In an article from the Guardian following the recent issues in London, Dr Jess Neumann, (a hydrologist at the University of Reading) said: “Flooding from intense summer rainfall is going happen more frequently. No city, town or village is immune to flooding and we all need to take hard action right now if we are to prevent impacts from getting worse in the future.”

How Do I Know if my Building is at Risk?

When you take on an apartment building as a property manager, you’ll most likely be made aware of any historical flood damage as well as any ongoing risks. If nothing’s mentioned, it’s definitely worth asking the question and checking the records. If you’re not sure about the flood risk to the area as a potential lease holder, you can use the Government’s online lookup to check the long-term risks from rivers, sea, surface water, reservoirs and some ground water.

You should also ask your estate agent directly if there has been any historical issues with flooding and, if so, what the impact was for the building as a whole.

Protecting Your Property from Flood

National Flood Forum provide some great information on ‘Resistance and Resilience’ when it comes to protecting your property. The advice around Resistance is based on reducing the risk of water entering the property at all- this is likely to be out of most property manager’s remits. Actions aimed at Resilience, however, are more about reducing the impact of flooding, should it occur.

They advise:

“Measures should be tailored to each property, such as using porous plaster, fitting solid floors or tiled floor coverings, raising electrics and taking simple steps in a flood event to move furniture and valuable possessions upstairs. Structural measures need to take account of the building type and its fabric.

Caution: Older properties (listed & non-listed) often need different approaches to ensure the integrity of the build. Many everyday practices can be damaging and create historic problems for the futures of such buildings.”

They provide further information in their leaflets; one for professionals and one for homeowners.

Insuring Against Flooding

The most important way to protect your apartment building and, in the case of leaseholders, your personal belongings, is to ensure you have the correct level of insurance in place. The usual tips apply- shop around, check reviews and if possible, use a trusted broker to find you the best and most suitable cover on the market. When it comes to contents insurance, many leaseholders may be very confused to learn that, even if they’re on the 9th floor, contents insurance may not be easier to obtain. This is because flooding puts the whole property at risk either through damage to foundations, loss of electricity, sewer drainage issues, or access impairment. Unfortunately, this means that many insurers will treat all apartments within a block in the same way- and many will not quote at all if the property has been hit by flooding before. In summary, before considering buying the leasehold to a flat you must do your research and remember that, no matter how high off the ground your particular unit may be, the building will be assessed as one entity for the purposes of insurance which may affect your premiums. Flat Living Insurance provides specialist insurance policies for blocks of flats and apartments. For more information or a quote, please contact a member of the Flat Living Insurance team on 0333 577 2044.

Flat Living Insurance only provides insurance for blocks of flats and apartments. Our flats insurance policies are designed to concentrate on understanding what protection your block of flats needs and delivering it.


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