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Floodplain - River

Considering Purchasing a Home in a Floodplain?

Despite recent weather extremes of drought in many parts of the world, including Europe and the UK, the weather in the United Kingdom is getting warmer and wetter every year, and reports of floods often appear on the evening news. Indeed, the UK government has warned that “climate change means more frequent flooding“. Even though we’ve all seen terrible pictures of people knee-deep in flood water with their belongings, it never gets old.

As noted by Jamie Johnson, CEO of FJP Investment, “More and more homes are being built in floodplains as the population of the country expands and the need for housing increases, despite repeated requests for a halt to such construction in these areas. As a result, more and more potential purchasers are faced with having to decide whether to buy a home in a floodplain and what the implications are if they do.”

This article explains what floodplains are, how you can locate them, what the implications are if you do, and much more.

To begin, let’s define floodplains

Simply put, floodplains are the low-lying regions near the banks of rivers and streams that are susceptible to flooding during times when water levels rise (e.g., heavy rainfall). A floodplain is the low-lying area along a riverbank and out to the valley’s outskirts.

While some rivers may appear to be completely devoid of floodplains, others may have rather large floodplains, and still others are quite narrow. The size of floodplains is affected by how much a river or stream winds and bends. Through the river’s twists and bends, the facing bank is eroded away, carving out a floodplain.

Are floodplains a safe place to live?

Much will depend on the specific zone in which the property is located, as we will discover later on, because numerous types of floodplains exist in the UK. Some people who live in flood-prone areas may be able to avoid flooding problems, but others may not be as lucky and have to deal with major flooding that causes a lot of trouble.

Floodplain - River

Local flood protection measures and their effect on flood risk are still another factor to consider when thinking of locating in a floodplain. Thanks to the Thames Barrier, the majority of London, including the Parliament at Westminster, is located on ground that is not at risk of flooding. As one can imagine, however, other parts of the country are not as secure.

Does house insurance cost more if you live in a floodplain?

Yes, it does, and the premium hike can be considerable in some cases. Houses in high-risk flood areas tend to be priced lower than comparable properties in other areas, so it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to spend more over time to avoid paying a lower initial price.

Just like if you were looking for, say, car insurance, comparing prices may significantly reduce your annual payment when you can pick up a good deal. Insurance rates for flood-prone properties are naturally higher than those that have never had a flood but are still located within a floodplain. If you want to get the best rate on house insurance for a flood-prone property, you need to give as much information as you can when applying, as this will help them conduct a more thorough assessment.

If you are receiving exorbitant quotes or have been advised that your property is uninsurable owing to its history, you may want to look into FloodRe. This programme is a collaboration between the government and insurance companies to reduce the cost of flood insurance for homeowners.

How can I check to see if a property is at risk of flooding?

If you want to know if a property is at risk of flooding, all you have to do is type in the address into this government website. The page warns that you won’t get a property-specific answer, but you should be able to get a general sense of the zoning.

Due to the fact that surveys do not need to account for flood risk under existing legislation, the onus of proof is on the buyer. Before making a purchase, it is smart to do your own research, especially if the property in question is near a large body of water.

If the home has ever been flooded in the past, the seller should make that fact known to potential buyers. Simplifying or holding back on the facts is ethically questionable, even though it may be tempting to do so. In due time, you will likely be exposed for doing this.

The classification of UK flood zones

According to the Environment Agency, there are three distinct flood risk zones in the United Kingdom. These are as follows:

Flood Zone 1

Flood Zone 1 areas are those with the lowest risk of flooding (less than 1 in 1,000 annual probability of river or sea flooding).

Flood Plain 2

Zones 2 is considered to have a moderate risk of flooding (annual probability of river flooding between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000; or land with an annual probability of sea flooding between 1 in 200 and 1 in 1,000).

Flood Zone 3a

Areas classified Flood Zone 3a status are judged to have a high chance of flooding. This is land having a 1 in 100 or more yearly probability of river flooding; or land having a 1 in 200 or greater annual probability of sea flooding.

Flood Zone 3b (The Functional Floodplain)

Areas with a Flood Zone 3b rating are known as The Functional Floodplain. The official EA website states:

“This zone comprises land where water has to flow or be stored in times of flood. Local planning authorities should identify in their Strategic Flood Risk Assessments areas of functional floodplain and its boundaries accordingly, in agreement with the Environment Agency.”

Is it a good idea to buy a home in a flood zone?

Only you can make up your mind and answer this question. Some homebuyers may be too worried by the mere threat of floods, while others will regard the chance to live near water as a reward worth accepting. Indeed, waterfront properties are highly sought after even in an age of climate change.

No one should be discouraged from purchasing a house in a floodplain if the prospective buyer is prepared to conduct their own research and understands the risks involved. However, you should look into the issue carefully, and it’s always a good idea to also take precautions. To learn more about how to safeguard your home from flooding, visit the National Flood Forum’s website.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you have support that you can call on. Many people in the UK live in areas that are at risk of flooding, but the vast majority never see anything like the terrible pictures that have been shown in the news in recent years.

Properties in floodplains should be carefully looked at, but they shouldn’t be automatically turned down without a closer look.

What happens if you want to sell up and relocate?

You might be asking what the ramifications are when you wish to move on. This is a good question, as many living in floodplains will want to move on at some point.

One may safely assume that if you purchased the property, you saw something in it and that someone else will too. Will it be a harder sell than a property on high ground? Probably yes, but you’ve shown when you bought it, as others do in floodplains, that even if it’s trickier, it’s still feasible.

The law says that you don’t have to give any information to people who might buy your property. Also, the Seller’s Property Information Form (SPIF) makes it impossible to hide information about how often the property has flooded in the past.

A query about past floods is included in this documentation, which must be completed honestly. Do not try to deceive the conveyancer by providing false information on this form; doing so is illegal. Furthermore, don’t be tempted to leave these questions blank, as this is sure to arouse suspicions on the part of the conveyancer. After all, if the tables were turned, you’d want the same treatment, right?

Furthermore, although the law does not specifically require you to disclose prior floods, an environmental search report ordered by the buyer’s solicitor will certainly pick up the danger regardless of whether you choose to hide information. Another important thing to think about is the chance of being sued in the future.


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