When Trouble Comes Flooding In
With 250,000 homes affected, and more downpours on the way, we provide fifteen tips on dealing with the deluge.
The torrential downpours of the past week have caused chaos and crisis across the UK. With some parts of England receiving two months' rain in 24 hours, rising floodwaters have left an estimated 250,000 homes under water. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of residents have been left without power or clean water. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, "Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink"!
So, if you're worried about the effect that invading water could have on your home (owned or rented), then check out these tips, which come courtesy of Nationwide BS and Fool.co.uk:
1. Don't put yourself at risk. It would be crazy to put your life on the line in a reckless attempt to salvage your sofa from six feet of water!
2. Stay tuned. Keep your eyes and ears open for public announcements, and look out for emergency workers. For example, if the flooding is very bad, then you may be ordered to evacuate your home until it is safe to return.
3. Do not use electricity or gas supplies, as their safety may have been compromised.
4. Don't drink tap water until you've been advised that it's safe to do so.
5. Move essentials and valuables to safety. You should transfer food, clothing and televisions upstairs to limit damage, and move furniture away from the walls.
6. Keep water-damaged furniture and other home contents. Don't dispose of any items of value until authorised by a loss adjuster.
7. Call your home-insurance company at the earliest stage. Many firms provide a 24-hour helpline for policyholders to call for advice.
8. Have your insurance documents handy. Even if you haven't yet been affected by flooding, it's worth checking your policies to ensure that you have adequate cover should the worst happen. One estimate is that these inundations will cost the UK insurance industry around £2 billion, so insurers are bracing themselves for a flood of claims.
9. Perform any emergency repair works that will prevent further damage. However, more elaborate or permanent measures should not be taken without prior approval from your insurer.
10. Alternative accommodation: check whether your insurance company offers this as part of your cover. It's possible that you could be re-housed for weeks, so keep a complete record of any additional spending while you're not living at home.
11. Watch out guttering and rainworks problems. Although much of the recent damage has been caused by rivers bursting their banks, a waterfall from your guttering, if left untouched, could cause water damage to your property.
12. If you have comprehensive car insurance, dig out your policy and check to see what level of cover you have for flood damage. Again, call your insurer's helpline for advice.
13. Uninsured losses: if you don't have home buildings and contents insurance (and around one in four households doesn't), do what you can to reduce the level of your loss. Salvage what you can, without putting your health at risk.
14. Consider hiring your own loss adjuster. In theory, loss adjusters are supposed to be independent mediators, but they are hired by insurance companies and 'he who pays the piper calls the tune'!
15. Keep all receipts and other relevant paperwork safe. You'll need them to support your claim.
Once the floods have subsided, affected residents should begin their clean-up operation by (with the approval of a loss adjuster):
- Oiling hinges and locks to prevent corrosion;
- Leaving windows and doors open when they're at home to help water to evaporate; and
- Removing the floor covering and then washing walls and floors with disinfectant and water.
These bouts of flooding highlight the value of home insurance and car insurance to protect against catastrophe. According to one estimate, a typical flood claim averages between £20,000 and £30,000. Thus, although floods of this magnitude happen only once every few decades, their severe financial impact can leave many people high and dry.
Finally, if you've been baled out by your insurer, then you may find that your neighbourhood is later categorised as a high-risk area. So, watch out for higher policy excesses or premiums when your next renewal notice arrives. After a big claim, or if your home is prone to flooding, you may find it difficult to find cover elsewhere, so this may be one of those occasions when you're better off sticking with your current provider, rather than shopping around for lower quotes.
We have set up a discussion board to help readers who have been affected by the flooding: Flooded Fools. Feel free to post your comments there!