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Flooding and home purchase awareness

Rain clouds over a flooded Romney Marsh
Rain clouds over a flooded Romney Marsh

Alan Williams, head of the residential conveyancing team at solicitors, Gullands has some wise words for those preferring to keep their feet on dry land.

Flooding is a growing risk for some Kent homes and something a number of us have recently had to deal with.

Some people will buy a property, especially those in a fantastic location, fully aware that at some time, it may suffer from flooding. However, aside from the physical damage, if a property is at risk of flooding, it may be difficult to get a mortgage, suitable insurance cover, or sell the property.

Nobody can ever say that a property that has not previously been flooded will never flood and new properties in particular may be tested by the extremes of our weather.

Yet there are steps that can be taken during the course of a property purchase to forewarn the buyer.

Solicitors are not qualified to give advice on flood risk but there are a number of checks that can be undertaken by the buyer or on a buyer’s behalf which will give them a better understanding of the risks.

The standard documentation supplied to a buyer’s solicitor (where the solicitors are adopting what is known as the Conveyancing Protocol) contains a standard inquiry of the seller to find out whether the property has ever been flooded.

If flooding has previously occurred which is not disclosed by the seller, then a buyer could bring a compensation claim as a result of such an incorrect reply. A buyer’s solicitors will also carry out an environment report. This should disclose whether there is any known flood risk. If so, more detailed inquiries should be made.

The buyer would need to identify the level of flood risk, which could be from their own personal knowledge of the property and the area or by ensuring that a physical inspection or survey has been carried out.

This will result in a more detailed flood report which will help the buyer to assess the overall risk. It is important to ensure that the surveyor instructed to act on the buyer’s behalf has local knowledge.

The buyer themselves can also make personal inquiries of neighbours, local businesses and consult the Environment Agency flood map. This provides a free postcode search for information on flooding from rivers and the sea, but not common flood causes such as surface water and ground water.

A further extremely useful indicator is to establish the terms on which buildings insurance (including flood risk cover) is available.

A prohibitive premium or an insurance company potentially declining to insure the property would highlight real cause for concern.

My best advice is to ask lots of questions and to do as much research as you can before you commit to buying any home.

Alan Williams is head of the residential conveyancing team at Gullands. See www.gullands.com or call 01622 689700.

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