Are your conveyancing clients ‘flood aware’? by Partner Landmark Information

Last month, Storm Ciara and Dennis brought devastation across the country, including the South West.  We saw multiple flood warnings and alerts issued across Devon and Somerset, with many main routes made impassable, and rail passengers stranded as flooding stopped services reaching Exeter and Plymouth (see link at footnote 1).


Due to the increasing concern about flood risk for property owners, the Law Society has recently updated its Flood Risk practice note – the first revision in four years.   The practice note provides guidance relating to information sources that better help clients understand the risk that flooding may pose, as well as offer steps that can be taken with regards to insurance and searches.


The practice note includes information relating to the types of flood risks that have the potential to affect property owners.  For example, a property doesn’t have to be located next to a river for it to be located in a high risk zone.  Flooding from surface water or groundwater is increasingly common and something that should always be researched in advance of a house purchase.


If flooding is a concern, it is important to investigate whether appropriate insurance cover can be arranged before a property transaction completes, to satisfy the risk criteria of the client’s mortgage lender.


On top of this, the Law Society has also published an updated TA6 Property Information Form and guidance notes. In particular, four areas of property information have been updated relating to Flood Risk, as well Japanese Knotweed, Radon and Septic Tanks.  The update provides additional information about a property to prospective buyers and is designed to provide greater transparency.


Yet, while there is a plethora of guidance and support out there, unfortunately, recent research conducted by YouGov for Landmark Information has shown that the majority of consumers in Great Britain are still not checking the flood risk of their homes, despite the increased incidents of flood events happening across the country.


The survey found that 62% of people stated that they have never checked the flood risk level of their home.


When looking at governmental regions, the survey found that people in Scotland are the least likely to have carried out any checks with 77% confirming they had never researched their flood risk. In the South West, this figure was 57%.


The survey clearly shows that the public is not necessarily making flood checks part of the research they personally conduct when moving into a new home; just over a quarter (26%) of respondents from the South West said they checked the flood risk of their home before moving in, with 14% saying they checked afterwards.   


According to the Environment Agency, over five million properties are considered to be at risk of flooding – of which 2.4 million properties are at risk from the sea or rivers, and a larger share of 2.8 million properties are at risk of surface water flooding, which isn’t always visibly apparent.


With future projections suggesting that we will witness drier summers and wetter winters, we are urging people to be far more aware of any environmental risk that may affect where they live, particularly when buying a new property as part of the conveyancing process. After all, reliable search reports – which include assessment by environmental consultants – are widely available and provide a wealth of intelligence, that ensures homeowners are aware of potential risks and can prepare accordingly.


Tony Rollason, Regional Manager, Landmark Information (Legal)



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