Insuring your home against floods
If you live in a flood-risk area, it's vital you have the right insurance. Here's what to look for.
If you live in a flood-risk area, it's vital you make sure your home is fully protected.
So, what can you do to make sure your home - and your finances - are protected against rising currents?
If your home is located in a designated flood-risk area, then you should ensure you take out a good home insurance policy which will leave you fully covered should you be unlucky enough to find a river running through your living room.
It's vital to take out both a building insurance policy and home contents cover. Buildings insurance covers damage sustained to the structure of your property, whereas home contents insurance covers your possessions.
Make sure you read your home insurer's policy documents carefully and watch out for any exclusions. Read the terms and conditions for any additional benefits, such as an emergency payout to cover temporary accommodation and emergency supplies if your home has to be evacuated. Also, don't forget to check the small print for any exclusions which could invalidate any claim and cost you more money.
What to do before a flood
Before the bad weather hits, check what damage your policy will cover and whether or not you need to update your policy.
Turn off gas, electricity and water at the mains supply.
Disconnect cookers, washing machines, dishwashers and other appliances connected by rigid pipes to gas and water supplies. This will prevent damage to the pipes if the appliance floats or moves during the flooding.
Unplug all electrical items and store them upstairs, high up or in a loft space.
Use silicone sealant to make doors and windows more resistant. Put sealant around the door/window then close and lock until the flooding has passed.
Reduce the amount of water entering your property. Use sandbags, plywood, metal or plastic sheeting placed on the outside of doors, windows and airbricks. You do not have to seal your property completely, but this will reduce the amount of floodwater entering your property. (After flooding, remove any covers over air-bricks as ventilation will aid the drying of your property).
Floodwater can enter through drains. The easiest way of preventing this is by putting in plugs and weighing them down with sandbags. Washing machines and dishwashers' outflows should be disconnected and blocked with a cloth/plug to prevent back-flow. Placing a sandbag in the toilet bowl will also prevent backflow.
Floodwater can contaminate foodstuffs and chemicals such as paint, garden pesticides, household cleaning products and garage oils. Similarly these can spill or leak into the floodwaters causing additional clean-up problems. Keep these materials upstairs or high up in your garage/shed.
Move furniture and electrical items upstairs and (if you have time) roll up rugs, carpets and curtains for suitable storage. (If you don't have time, raise curtains by hanging them over the curtain poles.
Remember: you cannot replace items of sentimental value, photographs or favourite toys. Keep them upstairs or somewhere high up on a permanent basis.
Should furniture be too heavy to move, empty it and move its contents upstairs. Raise it on bricks to minimise damage and move it away from walls as this can assist in drying the property later.
What to do during a flood
Avoid contact with floodwaters; they may be contaminated with sewage.
Do not wade through high floodwaters; manhole covers may have lifted, leaving deep and dangerous unseen holes.
Do as instructed by the emergency services - you may have to be evacuated. This will be done for your own good.
Leave internal ground floor doors open (doors may swell and jam if left closed).
What to do after a flood
Call your insurance company's 24 hour emergency helpline as soon as possible. Your insurer will be able to provide information on dealing with your claim, and assistance in getting things back to normal.
Keep a record of the flood damage (especially photographs or video footage) and retain correspondence with insurers after the flood.
Commission immediate emergency pumping/repair work if necessary to protect your property from further damage. This can be undertaken without insurer approval (remember to get receipts). Disinfect and thoroughly clean floors and surfaces.
Do not redecorate immediately. Seek advice and speak to a builder about using a dehumidifier. Your property may take some weeks to dry out.
Get advice if detailed, lengthy repairs are needed. Your insurer or loss adjuster can give advice on reputable contractors / tradesmen. Beware of bogus tradesmen and always check references.
If you have to move into alternative accommodation, check with your buildings insurer that the cost is covered in your buildings insurance policy.
Make sure your insurance company knows where to contact you if you have to move out of your home.
Do not turn on gas, electricity or water supplies until you have contacted your gas, electricity and water companies. Have your power supplies checked before you turn them back on to make sure they have dried out. Wash taps and run them for a few minutes before use.
Open doors and windows to ventilate the house but take care to ensure your house and valuables are secure.
Don't think it can't happen again. Restock your emergency supplies.
Where to go for advice
The Directgov website has official government advice about protecting your home in the event of a flood.
Alternatively, call the Environment Agency's advice line on 0845 988 1188. All calls are charged at a local rate.
Please note that articles on MSN Money do not constitute regulated financial advice, which recommends a course of action based upon the specifics of your personal circumstances. The articles are intended to provide general personal financial information. We urge you to consult an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) before making any important decisions about your finances. You can search for an IFA in your local area. Any statement regarding financial services products and tax liability is based on legislation and tax practices as at 6 April 2011, which is, of course, subject to change. The value of any tax benefits or reliefs depends upon the individual circumstances of the investor. When investment performance is mentioned you should remember that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Where products have an underlying investment content, in many cases the value of the investment can fall as well as rise. For with-profit based investments, there is no guarantee as to the level of bonuses that will be declared, if any. Where mortgages or secured loans are explained do remember that your home is at risk if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it. All mortgages are subject to underwriting, status and are not available to people under the age of 18.