As anyone whose property has been flooded knows, flooding often means many months of clearing up, drying out and repairing your property. What do you need to know about buying flood insurance and making a claim? Here are five tips.
1. Don’t think you won’t be able to get insurance if you’ve been flooded.
Under guidelines agreed with the government, insurance companies are supposed to continue to offer insurance to properties that are in a flood risk area (this includes those that have been flooded) as long as the risk of flooding isn’t any higher than 1 in 75. Your existing insurer should also offer cover to the new owners if you want to sell your property.
SAVVY TIP: There’s a new flood insurance agreement that takes effect from April 2016 that will limit the amount insurance companies will be able to charge for flood insurance. Read more about it in my article on Flood Re – what the new flood insurance agreement means for you.
2. Not all insurers assess flood risk properties in the same way.
Some insurers won’t want to take on properties that have been flooded or even those that are in an area where there’s a risk of flooding, but others are better at assessing the risk.
- If you live in a flood risk area, it’s probably not worth shopping around on a price comparison site as insurers often cherry pick the lowest risk business and if they refuse cover that will make it much harder to get insurance elsewhere.
SAVVY TIP: Find a broker who specialises in this area (look at BIBA, the British Insurance Brokers’ Association website for names and contact details). If that doesn’t work, there’s a specialist firm called Bureau Insurance Services which claims to be able to find insurance for the vast majority of properties that have previously been rejected. Be aware that there may be a flood excess of £2,500.
3. Myth: A higher excess means you’ll have to pay the first part of your claim.
Many insurers increases the excess levels on policies quite sharply after you’ve made a claim for flooding. Others may increase the excess just because you’re in a flood risk area, even if your property didn’t suffer any damage.
Having an excess of several thousand pounds doesn’t mean you have to pay this upfront. If, for example, it’s going to cost £40,000 to repair your property after it’s been flooded and there’s a £5,000 excess, you may be able to make cutbacks so that the repair job only costs £35,000.
4. If you have to make a claim, you don’t always have to keep damaged carpets and furniture etc as evidence.
Sometimes insurers can be real sticklers when it comes to asking for receipts and evidence of items you’re claiming for, but if there’s a major flooding — with all the damage and mess that involves — you shouldn’t be expected to keep hold of sodden carpets or sofas for days on end.
SAVVY TIP: Whatever you do, make sure you throw away any food in your fridge or freezer as soon as possible — even if you’re going to make a claim
If you’ve been flooded, you should:
- Move items into your back garden, if you have one and if this is possible.
- Take photographs of carpets and sofas etc if you have nowhere to store them.
- Cut off a corner of the item, whether it’s a carpet, sofa covering or curtains so you can match them later or if a photo doesn’t do it justice.
SAVVY TIP: This is particularly important if your curtains or carpet are made of an unusual and/or expensive fabric. Unless you have the receipt or other evidence of how much it cost, a swatch of the fabric is definitely worth taking.
5. Not all insurers deal with claims in the same way.
Well, you might not expect them to take an identical approach but you might be surprised at how different they are. For example, many people who were flooded in Cumbria had to stay in caravans while their home was being repaired and some insurers — but not all — let customers keep the caravan once they’d moved back into their home.
Bear in mind that:
- If you use the insurer’s panel of traders or repair firms, you can complain to the insurer if they don’t do a proper repair job. The trader/repair company is seen as acting as an agent of the insurer in this case.
SAVVY TIP: If you’re not happy with the insurer’s response, you can complain to the free to use Financial Ombudsman Service. You can read some useful information about how the Financial Ombudsman views complaints about household repairs after an insurance claim here.
- If you use your own repair company and there’s a problem, you will probably have to take it up directly with the trader. The only situation where this wouldn’t be the case is if the insurer’s recommended companies weren’t available or if they’d done a botched job in the first place.
SAVVY TIP: Some insurers are far better than others when it comes to keeping in touch with their customers and handling things smoothly. If you’re not happy with the way your insurer has handled your claim, you should complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which is free to do.
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