Conveyancing and property flood risk assessments - Palmers Solicitors

Conveyancing and property flood risk assessments

Conveyancing and property flood risk assessments

When a property is constructed, bought or sold, its flood risk must be assessed as a key part of the process.

Flood risk can influence everything from insurance premiums to property value and safety.

For property owners, buyers, and legal professionals, understanding and evaluating this risk is essential.

In this article, we will discuss the factors influencing a property’s flood risk and the role that conveyancing plays in identifying high-risk properties.

What is property flood risk?

There are two parts to the flood risk of a property.

The first is the likelihood that the property will flood, which can change throughout the year. For example, a development site beside a river may be more vulnerable to flooding during peak times for rain, whereas a low-lying site may be vulnerable to flooding year-round.

This is the part that a conveyancer will be able to help with the most, by conducting and collating reports on the historic risk to the property and area.

The second aspect of flood risk is the potential damage or consequences that could result from flooding. A property with high probability of flooding will not necessarily suffer the worst consequences, depending on its use and contents.

For example, a property containing valuable items or lots of people has a potentially higher risk from flooding than a property used infrequently.

What influences flood risk?

There are a number of factors that influence a property’s propensity towards flooding, including:

  • Location – Properties located near bodies of water like rivers, seas, or lakes are naturally at a higher risk of flooding. Topography also plays a role; low-lying areas are more prone to flooding than elevated regions.
  • Climate change and weather patterns – Increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and intense storms, can exacerbate flood risks.
  • Land use and development – Urban development can increase flood risk by reducing natural drainage areas. The presence of drainage systems and flood defences also affects this risk.
  • Past flooding – Prior incidents of flooding may indicate the likelihood that it will happen again.

On the flip side, a similar range of factors impact the potential damage that a flood could cause, which is the other aspect of flood risk:

  • Valuable contents – Contents with value or that are old maybe viewed by insurance providers as high-risk because of potentially high-value claims against them.
  • Vulnerable persons – A property with vulnerable persons inside routinely may carry a higher risk of injury or death if it is prone to flooding.
  • Electrical or chemical contents – Any contents which could react with flood water to start a fire or a chemical reaction may cause the building to be viewed as high-risk.

If any of these factors apply to your property or one you intend to buy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll struggle to get an insurance policy or sell the property.

Once your property has been assessed, you need to consider whether there is anything you can do to mitigate the risk before you move forward with the transaction.

Conveyancing and assessing flood risk

When you plan to purchase a property, your solicitor will conduct ‘conveyancing searches’ to find out more information about the property.

This will be done in tandem with the local authority.

Your solicitor will typically carry out a flood risk search with the following components:

  • Drainage – your local water company will be asked to confirm that they maintain the sewers, pipes and drainage systems. A nearby sewer or drainage system could indicate a higher risk of flooding.
  • Water – the Environmental Agency (EA) will be able to provide data that shows if the property is within 25 metres of a Flood Storage Area, designed to store excess flood water, or is at risk from groundwater based on national flooding models.
  • Environmental – during standard checks, your solicitor can check whether the property is nearby to any naturally occurring bodies of water, or whether the area is at particular environmental risk of flooding.

Your solicitor will typically apply to the EA to find out if the property or surrounding land has flooded in the past.

These searches as part of the conveyancing process are designed to ensure that your property is as described and there is nothing that could potentially cause you unforeseen problems or incur costs.

Legal obligations and flood risk management

A significant flood risk may affect the type of insurance that a property will be offered or whether a buyer will want to take it on.

For this reason, there are legal obligations to disclose known flood risks when selling a property. Failure to disclose such information can lead to legal disputes and claims of misrepresentation.

This is why you should speak with your solicitor about flood risk reporting during the conveyancing process, to ensure that you are willing and able to take on the property in its current condition.

There are also usually requirements from mortgage lenders to obtain a flood risk assessment for properties in high-risk areas.

A high flood risk can affect a property’s eligibility for a mortgage and its overall market value.

How we can help

Assessing a property’s flood risk requires a multifaceted approach, considering geographical, historical, and environmental factors.

It’s a crucial aspect of property ownership, purchasing decisions, and legal compliance. Property owners and potential buyers should conduct thorough flood risk assessments with support from a professional service.

Our conveyancing experts can help you to conduct a thorough check on any property you wish to purchase, including flood risks, to help minimise the risk to you and your future home.

We have experience in conducting flood risk reporting and identifying where this may cause problems with insurance, development or safety.

For further support assessing the flood risk of your property, please contact Residential Property Department Director, Erin Cronin here.