Flood disruption and claiming compensation

It seems that each winter we hear terrible news of torrential rain causing rivers to burst their banks and then, of course, the widespread flooding to housing and businesses as a result. In recent years, groundwater and surface water flooding has been a significant issue for home and business owners alongside planners, developers and local authorities.

If your home or business has been flooded or damaged by the consequences of groundwater flooding, what are your options? If you have insurance, will your insurer definitely pay out for the damage? What happens if they refuse to pay, or you feel there has been an underpayment of your claim? And how do the laws surrounding flooding and water management protect you – can you seek compensation from an organisation or public body in circumstances where they could be considered at fault?

Here we will answer these questions.

Flood Law – The Flood and Water Management Act 2010

The Flood and Water Management Act (The Act) provides a legal framework for managing flood risks in relation to people, homes and businesses.

Under The Act, a duty is placed on all flood risk management bodies to cooperate. Guidance issued under The Act provides a system to assist the relevant bodies in their obligations to reduce the risk of future floods caused by extreme weather.

The various agencies responsible for managing flood risk include:

  • The Environment Agency
  • Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs)
  • District and borough councils
  • Coast protection authorities
  • Water and sewerage companies
  • Internal drainage boards
  • Highways authorities

If you have insurance

Most buildings insurance policies will include flood cover. You will need separate cover to protect your belongings. Flood insurance generally covers the following: a river or canal breaking its banks, seawater flooding from high tides and storms, surface water/groundwater flooding caused by heavy rainfall or burst pipes.

Always check your policy when taking out insurance to see what is included and what repairs, replacements and other items your insurer will pay out for. Insurance premiums and the policy terms of your insurance cover may be affected if the property is situated in an area known to be at risk of flooding.

If a flood occurs, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the damage to your home or business, and/or your belongings. Make sure you ask how long it will be before a loss adjuster is able to visit your property to survey the damage. Keep a record of the contact. Keep proof of the flood damage, including the high water line, and don’t remove or replace any item without your insurer’s knowledge and approval.

You may be unhappy with how your insurer has approached or settled your claim or rectified the damage. The most common issues with insurance claims include:

  • disputes over whether flooding was actually the cause of damage
  • disputes over the way claims have been handled
  • disputes over the repairs carried out following flooding
  • disputes over the amount of money paid out for losses following flood disruption to a business

Seeking compensation from the authority or body at fault for the flooding

In certain cases, it may be possible to seek compensation for losses caused by flooding. If the flood should and could have been prevented, there may be grounds for suing the body at fault. These claims can be complex and it is advisable to seek representation by a specialist flood claim solicitor with experience of this type of litigation.

There have been a number of well-documented cases brought against local authorities and insurers following weather-related disruption and damage, and these are useful for highlighting case law precedents. These cases included Vernon Knight Associates v Cornwall Council [2013] EWCA Civ 950 reveals the circumstances in which a council may be deemed liable for damage caused by flooding due to failures in maintenance.

How Wellers Law Group can help

The flood claim solicitors at Wellers can help you make a claim for damages against a local authority or any agency whose actions or failures resulted in flood damage to your property or business operations. If you have an insurance dispute relating to flood damage which can’t be settled through the ombudsman service, we may be able to assist you by making a claim through the civil courts.

Support from an experienced solicitor

Jonathan Tyler has acted for numerous clients who have suffered through water damage, including an IT business in its claim against its freeholder for leaks into its premises which caused damage to stock and business interruption securing significant compensation. He has also acted for a group of residents whose properties suffered damage from flooding from the abutting roadway in their claims against the local authority. And for flat owners in claims against their freeholder and others regarding water ingress which had caused damage.

We have expertise in all types of property damage claims arising from natural flooding or water penetration or ingress (as well as similar insured perils such as fire and riot damage). These range from damage caused to property from leaks from within the same building to damage caused by groundwater flooding from neighbouring properties or from underground defective water pipes causing soil erosion and landslips.

Our relationships with hydrologists and other experts as well as specialist counsel enable us to offer a complete legal team so that your claim is put on its best terms and delivered efficiently and cost-effectively and with the highest levels of service.

Contact Jonathan Tyler by email at jonathan.tyler@wellerslawgroup.com or call our Sevenoaks office on 01732 457 575 to speak to our team about your circumstances.