Flooding, damage and repairs
This page looks at what you can do if you live in an area prone to flooding. It looks at what you can do to prepare for floods and how to cope if your home is flooded.
How do I find out about potential flooding in my area?
To find out if homes in your area are at risk of floods:
What do the flood warnings mean?
Flooding is possible in your area during the next 2 to 48 hours, and you should be prepared.
Flooding is expected and you should take immediate action, including:
- moving pets, vehicles, food, valuables and other items to a safe place
- putting sandbags and other flood protection devices in place
- getting ready to evacuate your home.
Severe Flood Warning
You can expect severe and dangerous flooding. You should be prepared for power cuts and the loss of gas and water supplies, you may be evacuated from your home by the emergency services.
How do I prepare for flooding?
If you live in an area that’s likely to flood, it’s important to be prepared. Floodwaters can rise very quickly, so don’t wait until a warning is issued – this may not give you enough time to get things ready.
- Get ready
- Make sure your buildings and contents insurance covers you for flood damage. Keep the details of your policy somewhere safe and handy.
- Keep valuable items and documents in waterproof bags and store them upstairs or in high places.
- Make sure you know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water at the mains – you may have to do this in the dark.
- Protect your home.
Invest in sandbags, vent guards or other flood protection, to help keep the water out. Make sure everyone in your household knows where they are stored and how to use them. In areas prone to flooding, your local council may issue you with sandbags, and you can also make them by filling pillowcases with sand or earth.
What do I do if my home is flooded?
If you’re told to leave your home by the emergency services or the council, you must go. If this will be difficult for you, for example if you have mobility problems, get in touch with your local council.
Contact your insurance company
Most companies have a 24-hour helpline you can call. The staff will tell you what you need to do to make a claim.
Before you start cleaning up, take photographs of the damage and mark the highest level of the floodwater on your wall. This will help make your insurance claim.
Floodwater is usually dirty, and can contain sewage, chemicals and other contaminants. You’ll need to disinfect thoroughly any areas affected by floodwaters, to avoid infection. Wear protective clothing when you’re doing this.
Don’t be tempted to throw away damaged furniture, carpets and other belongings until your insurance company has given you the go-ahead.
Dry out your home
Before you move back into your home and start redecorating, your home will need to dry out completely. This may take several weeks, or even months, depending on the severity of the flooding and the materials your home is made from.
Start repairing damage and redecorating
Depending on the extent of the damage, you (or your landlord if you’re renting) may need to get a builder, structural engineer or surveyor in to look at your home and advise you on what repair work needs doing.
Homeowners must get the go-ahead from their insurers before hiring any contractors. Most insurance firms have a list of approved builders, joiners and other contractors, but you can chose other contractors if you wish. It’s worth remembering that, in the event of any dispute over the work, it’ll be easier to sort things out if you’ve hired a contractor approved by the insurance company.
Watch out for companies taking advantage of the situation and touting for business from door to door in areas hit by floods. It’s important that any contractors you hire are experienced in restoring properties damaged by flooding. They will ensure that the work is done safely and hygienically, and can offer you advice on making your home more flood resistant for the future.
Get gas and electricity systems checked
It’s very important that you get your electrical and gas systems checked by a registered contractor before you attempt to use them. Even if they appear to work, they may have been damaged by water or mud, and could be dangerous.
What does my insurance cover?
It’s important to check what your policy includes, and make sure you’re insured for a large enough amount to cover all your belongings. If not the insurance company won’t pay out enough to cover the damage to your property and belongings.
Most buildings and contents insurance will cover you for flood damage. This should include:
- repairing any damage caused to your home and to any outbuildings such as a garage or garden shed
- repairing or replacing any belongings damaged or lost during the flood
- paying for you to stay somewhere else if you can’t remain in your home until it’s been repaired.
If you rent your home, your landlord will be responsible for taking out buildings insurance. However, you will still need to take out contents insurance to cover any damage to your belongings.
Money Advice Service can provide more information about insurance in the event of flooding.
Who is responsible for repairs?
If you are a homeowner, you will be responsible for any repairs that are needed, as well as for replacing any belongings that have been damaged. You should have buildings insurance to cover the repairs and contents insurance for your belongings. If you own a leasehold property, the freeholder normally takes out the buildings insurance for the building as a whole.
If you are a tenant, your landlord will be responsible for most repairs to the property. However, landlords are not normally responsible for replacing or repairing any of your personal belongings that were damaged, including furniture. You should have contents insurance to protect your own belongings. Take a look at our pages on repairs and bad conditions for more information.
What if I’m unable to return to my home?
You should be able to claim the cost of alternative accommodation from your insurer. Contact them directly to find out more.
If you are not covered by your insurance policy and you can’t return, you should be able to get help from the council as a homeless person. The council should find you a place to stay while it looks into your situation to see if you are entitled to permanent housing. People made homeless by a flood are automatically in priority need. Read the pages on homelessness and make a homelessness application as soon as possible.
Can I claim housing benefit if I have to move out?
If you have to move out while essential repairs are being carried out, you may be eligible for housing benefit on temporary accommodation if you rent it.
However you will not normally be entitled to payments on more than one home. So if you remain liable to pay rent on your normal home as well, the local council can decide which home housing benefit will be paid for.
If you are still paying rent on your home, you could ask your landlord to pay something towards the cost of your temporary accommodation. Your landlord might have insurance that covers this.
Can I claim any money back from my landlord?
If you are renting and you have to move out because of flooding, you may be able to sue your landlord for ‘special damages’ to cover the costs of removal or alternative accommodation. You may also be able to claim ‘general damages’ for the inconvenience of having to move.
If some rooms of the property are uninhabitable during repair work, you may be entitled to an abatement (a reduction or refund) of your rent. The amount of the reduction depends on the proportion of the property that is uninhabitable.
If you want to take this sort of action against your landlord, you should get advice first and will probably need help from a solicitor as the procedures can be very complicated.