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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Q&A: Flooding and insurance
Flooded road
Over half a million homes are at risk of flood

Large parts of England have been devastated by flooding.

Homes and businesses have been damaged, with the insurance industry putting the cost at over a billion pounds.

So what sort of help is on offer for victims of the flooding?

What should I do if my home or business is flooded?

If you are unfortunate enough to be flooded, the advice from the insurance industry is clear.

Contact your contents and building insurer as soon as possible. It is advisable to keep insurance documents in a waterproof plastic bag.

Your insurer will expect you to take reasonable steps to protect your property.

Therefore, take easily moveable objects upstairs and, if possible, use sandbags to hold back the water.

For the sake of safety, make sure the electrical supply is switched off at the mains and equipment unplugged.

Ideally you should have already ensured that your contents insurance covers the full replacement cost of any items ruined, rather than their current market value.

As for cars and other vehicles, comprehensive insurance should cover flood damage.

However, third party cover won't pay out if your vehicle is damaged by flood.

How can I best cope with the aftermath?

Once the waters have receded, you can take up carpets, but you must retain them so that the insurance company loss adjuster can see them and verify the claim.

Contact your insurer as soon as possible
Move personal property upstairs
Turn off electricity and other utilities
The cost of alternative business and residential accommodation may be covered by your insurer
Source: ABI

For the same reason, it is very important that you keep all damaged items rather than throw them away.

If necessary, store them outside, in your garden or elsewhere.

Most household insurance policies will cover the cost of alternative accommodation, if your property is uninhabitable.

Likewise, many businesses have business interruption cover, which will pay the cost of alternative accommodation.

This is no bad thing, since when a major flood event takes place it can take months for insurers to pay out.

Is much of the UK at risk of flooding?

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) estimates that 10% of the land area of the UK, covering up to 2 million homes and 185,000 businesses, is in danger of flooding.

Despite the Environment Agency's attempts to increase flood awareness, many people living in flood plains are still not aware that they are at risk.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates that 570,000 properties are at "severe" flood risk. This includes many homes situated in flood plains in the Severn river valley and the east of the country.

I live in a flood plain - will I still be able to get insurance?

Under a deal struck between the government and the insurance industry in 2005, insurers agreed to continue to insure homes at risk of flood.

However, you may find it hard to switch insurance provider.

As part of the agreement the government said it would increase its spending on flood defences.

However, last year there was a 15m shortfall in the amount of money spent on flood defences.

The government said this was a one-off, but some insurers have got a little twitchy.

Instances of flooding can be very costly to the insurance industry. The average flood claim is between 15,000 and 25,000.

Will the insurers back away from their agreement?

They say no, just as long as the government holds to its side of the bargain.

They want to see a 10% increase in the amount of money spent on defences.

But the ABI said they were encouraged by the government's commitment to build new defences and to halt the building of new homes in flood plains.

What are the insurance companies doing about it?

Some insurers are adopting a high-technology approach to their assessment of whether an individual property is at risk.

More Than and Norwich Union are using digital mapping to calculate the risk of flood to within a few metres.

As well as showing whether an individual property is at risk, the map shows how often a flood is likely to occur and to what depth.

Association of British Insurers on the cost of the floods

In Pictures: Flooding in Yorkshire
26 Jun 07 |  In Pictures
Hundreds flee over dam burst fear
26 Jun 07 |  South Yorkshire
Better deal for flood-risk homes
11 Nov 05 |  Business
Insurer 'maps' UK in flood fight
03 Mar 04 |  Business
Video game to help flood planners
19 Feb 04 |  Technology
Flood victims' homeless misery
18 Feb 04 |  South West Wales


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