There are several ways to find out whether your property is at risk of flooding but the free online services are not really sufficient to identify, accurately, the risk to your particular property. A commercial desktop flood search may give a more comprehensive result and, if chosen wisely, can also offer you a professional assessment of the overall flood risk – rather than leaving you to draw your own conclusions.
Free online flood maps
There are free online flood maps for England that show the risk extent of river and coastal flooding, ‘reservoir flooding and surface water flooding. For flood maps in Scotland please see the SEPA website. For flood maps in Wales please see the Natural Resources Wales website or for flood maps in Northern Ireland, please see the DAERA NI website.
Short and Long Term Flood Risk
A 5 day forecast at a county level across England gives and indication of the flood risk in the coming days. This service is freely available and may indicate if there is any immediate flood risk to your area. More information is available here.
You can also view the long term flood risk of any property across England by entering a postcode and selecting the appropriate address. This service is also available for free by clicking here.
Ask the Environment Agency by post or email
By emailing ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ you can find out the history of flooding in the areas surrounding a specific property in England and Wales.
Also, an Insurance Related Request Letter is an additional available service, this service is offered free for homeowners unless it takes more than 18 hours to complete the research. The turnaround time is 20 working days maximum. The same service is available on commercial property at a fee of £60.
The letter states:
- if your property is in a flood risk area
- how likely the area is to flood
- the protection given by local flood defences
- if there are any planned flood defences
Commercial Desktop Flood Search
These are produced by private companies who have access to more detailed information relevant to flood risk. They will include the data from free online flood maps but supplement it with information on historical flooding; groundwater flood susceptibility; the position of local watercourses and reservoirs; the local topography and better information on the local flood defences and whether they will provide adequate protection.
When selecting a search, check that it is provided by a company with good pedigree in environmental data and adequate professional indemnity (PI) cover and that:
- It offers an overall assessment of the risk, given by an expert with appropriate qualifications, and whose opinion is underpinned by the PI cover.
- It covers coastal, river, surface and groundwater flooding.
- It takes into account the relative height of the property and the surrounding area.
- It predicts flood depths.
- It allows the lender to rely on the search result as well as the buyer who commissioned it.
- It uses data sets which analyse the flood risk down to small scale level, so that the individual property and its features are identifiable. Risk to a large area is much less useful.
- It presents the results and assessment in an easy-to-understand way and offers you the chance to speak to the consultant about any queries you may have about the report.
Independent flood risk survey
It is possible to commission an expert to do a full flood risk survey, including a site inspection. It is always best to ensure that you get a suitably qualified surveyor for this. Currently there is no certification for flood surveyors, so we advise that you ensure you get an assessment from a chartered surveyor. You can find more information on this through the Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors (RICS).
It is essential you check exactly what information will be supplied in this service and that you are not paying for access to information that is already freely available, or available cheaper via a desktop search.