How to spot if the property you intend to buy is at risk of flooding

As climate change has become more prevalent across the world, in the UK alone, more areas than ever before are experiencing flooding due to unprecedented rainfall. This means parts of England are being affected by flooding that hasn’t been recorded before.

Due to the weather’s unpredictable nature, it isn’t as clear cut when buying a property to access if an area has a future risk of flooding based on historical data.

You may think that only properties close by to a river, or the coast could be affected by flooding however, this isn’t always true. In this guide, we discuss the distinct types of flooding a property can be affected by and what signs to look out for.

What types of flooding are there?

Groundwater flooding

As mentioned most people are aware of flooding that is caused by a river bursting its banks, or coastal flooding from unusually high tides and spray. Yet, a lesser-known type of flooding is caused by groundwater.

According to the Environment Agency ‘flooding from groundwater can happen when the level of water within the rock or soil underground – known as the water table – rises. When the water table rises and reaches ground level, water starts to seep through to the surface and flooding can happen. This means that water may rise up through floors or underground rooms such as cellars or basements. Water doesn’t always appear where you would expect it to – such as valley bottoms – it may also emerge on hillsides.’

In contrast to river flooding, groundwater flooding may occur days, weeks or even months after heavy or prolonged rainfall. What’s more, it may last longer than other temporary types of flooding – weeks or even months.

River flooding

River flooding is one of the most common types of flooding. It occurs when heavy rainfall causes a river or other waterway to burst its banks and flood onto the floodplain.

It can cause widespread damage to properties and businesses in the surrounding areas.

Coastal flooding

Coastal flooding is the rarest type of flooding to affect properties in the UK. Most coastal residential areas have defences in place to protect local communities, yet these can be breached causing people to retreat inland with the added issue of saltwater causing damage to buildings. What’s more, with climate change, stormy weather, and high tides all playing a part the risk of coastal flooding is on the increase.

Researching a property’s risk of flooding

Before you view a property there are a few ways in which you can assess a property’s risk of flooding.

• The Environment Agency/ HM Land Registry – see here for information about historic flooding in an area, and find out here whether an area is likely to flood in the future
• Google Search – typically only large-scale flooding makes the national press, therefore, a Google search for recent flooding in the local area may help you to look into flooding on a smaller scale. The local press is more likely to report this type of flooding as well as to what extent any damage was caused.
• Get to know the local area – there’s no better way to get a feel for a property and its surrounding area than walking around and speaking to the local community. Neighbours may disclose if there has been any flooding in the area in recent years. Walking around will also help to pinpoint where there are if any, sources of water such as streams, reservoirs, and canals.

What to look for when viewing a property

Water damage is the easiest way to identify recent flooding although it is likely most sellers would look to take care of this before putting their property on the market. However, buyers may still notice water stains that could have been missed.

Not all flood damage can easily be covered over – severe historical flood damage to a property could result in the following:

  • Crumbling drywall or plasterboard
  • Watermarks on wooden flooring
  • Stains on external walls and sidings
  • Uneven grade (base of land) around the property

More obvious signs of a homeowner taking precautionary measures against flooding could be:

  • Appliances raised above the floor – could be indicative of low-level flooding
  • Flood proof measures such as plastic skirting boards, “quick-release doors” or raised thresholds
  • Electrical sockets raised higher up – although this is more common practice in new build properties
  • Flood barriers in the area that have been added by the local council or residents – would strongly suggest a higher risk of future flooding

Even if you’ve done your due diligence there are still a few more ways that historical or future flooding could be picked up.

  • Property survey – a building survey is likely to uncover previous water damage to the fabric of a building. Yet, it is important to remember that it won’t predict any future risk of flooding.
    • Any issues uncovered by the survey are worth passing on to your licensed conveyancer to access if there are any legal implications to the issues disclosed.
  • Conveyancing ‘Searches’ – there are several searches your conveyancer will carry out at the beginning of your property transaction. When it comes to historical and future flooding the ‘environmental search’ would indicate if there is a risk of flooding. If this is the case, a more detailed flood report would need to be carried out.

What if your dream home is at risk of flooding?

If the home you intend to buy is at risk of flooding it is important to weigh up the risks involved.

Firstly, you need to find out if you can insure the property against flooding. Many insurers are unlikely to offer protection if a property is at high risk of flooding. Therefore, could you cover the cost of the damage sustained in the event it is flooded?

Secondly, if you are buying with the support of a mortgage, will the mortgage lender offer you the money required as again, lenders are reluctant to lend on properties with a significantly high risk of flooding.

Your conveyancer will be able to advise on your options before you commit to the purchase of the property.

If you are looking for a licensed conveyancer that can support you through your property transaction get a free instant conveyancing quote with us at Enact today.

Start typing and press Enter to search