Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Saturday, 21 November 2009

Call for flood prevention change

By Bob Howard
Reporter, Radio 4's Money Box

Mike Lewin outside his home
Mike Lewin invested in substantial flood protection

Insurers must find a better way of rewarding customers who carry out substantial flood prevention work, according to the National Flood Forum.

Flood proofing a home can costs tens of thousands of pounds.

The flood victims charity said home owners who spend these sorts of sums are not being given reductions on policy premiums or excesses.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said its members have begun to do this.

Flood protection

Mike Lewin's Elizabethan cottage in Surrey was flooded twice in three years, causing £39,000 worth of damage.

His insurer, Allianz, subsequently insisted that Mr Lewin would be liable for the first £10,000 of any future flood claim.

This summer, he paid a specialist company £19,000 to protect his home from floodwaters.

I urge them to recognize the vast amounts of money that people have put into protecting their own property, and reward them appropriately
Mary Dhonau, National Flood Forum

He told Radio 4's Money Box programme that the contractor did a very thorough job:

"They've gone right down under the foundations, about five to six layers of anti-water protection," he said.

"They say you can live in the middle of a lake, and not get wet."

When he sent the certificate for the work to Allianz, the company said it would not reduce his premium or excess.

"I've shown them the certificate, I've shown them that it should not flood, he said.

"They've just totally ignored it."

High risk

Allianz said it had good reasons for not reducing Mr Lewin's premium and excess:

"Mr Lewin's property is in an area which has been identified by the Environment Agency as being at extreme risk of flooding.

Rescue from floods
People have had to be rescued from their homes after flooding hit Cumbria.

Given the high risk of flooding in this case, a period of no further flooding is required for us to consider reducing terms."

The National Flood Forum, which campaigns on behalf of flood victims, said it has heard from many frustrated homeowners like Mr Lewin, who have expensive work done, only to see their policy premiums and excesses remain the same.

Incentives needed

Mary Dhonau, its chief executive, says it is time for the insurance industry to make concessions to customers who do the right thing:

"I urge them to recognize the vast amounts of money that people have put into protecting their own property, and reward them appropriately," she said.

"They've got to decide how they, as an industry, are going to deal with it."

The ABI said some of its members are already offering customers, who do work, reduced premiums and excesses.

Malcolm Tarling, from the ABI, said his members are assessing new flood prevention techniques:

"Many companies do have lists of approved manufacturers," he said.

"I think this is certainly something the industry will look at in the future, because we know the flood risk in this country is going to get worse."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 12 noon, and repeated on Sundays at 2100 GMT. Download the podcast.

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