Are you a Landlord? Has your let home flooded? Are your tenants at risk?
Flooding has caused millions of pounds worth of damage over recent years. But beyond the monetary shock of ruined carpets and furniture, there's the emotional trauma of seeing a home invaded by flood waters and the potential for irreplaceable personal effects to be spoiled. If you are responsible for the property you must take action immediately. The property is not your tenants responsibility - and you will need to work with your tenants to sort the problem out.
Make sure you're adequately insured. You don't have to live beside a river to be flooded. Heavy rain can cause flash floods. Even tiny water courses and storm drains can flood an area if the water can't escape quickly enough. There are many homes situated away from waterways which have flooded, and there are thousands of homes at risk. Make sure your policy includes Flood Damage as standard. Homeshield Insurance only supplies home insurance products that include Flood Damage.
If your home is flooded there's no quick fix. Depending on the severity of the flood, it can take many months to dry out and repair a house. It takes house bricks about one month per inch to dry out completely. It is a very lengthy process. Your Landlords Home Insurance policy should include rent guarantee due to an insured event. This means that should an insured event occur - for example flooding, they will pay your rent each month during the repairs if the home is uninhabitable for your tenant. You will then be required to release the tenant from their contract to enable them to seek alternative accommodation.
However, if the worst happens there are some things you can do to help your tenant and they can do to help you in the moments which follow the flood:
• Switch off the gas and don't touch the electrics. Water conducts electricity, so you may find your power trips out. Don't try to switch it back on.
• Call your home insurance company's emergency help line as soon as possible. They will provide assistance on making a claim and, if necessary, they should also help with alternative emergency accommodation.
• Keep a record of the damage. Ideally take lots of photos or video of the flood damage. If you don't have a camera to hand, take notes of what happened and the damage caused, try to be as detailed as possible.
• If emergency pumping or repair work is necessary you should have this done. You don't need to go through your insurance company for this, but you should be able to claim the cost back from your policy as your claim is processed.
• If your tenant has to leave your house, make sure your landlords insurance company knows where to contact them. If they have a mobile phone, make sure they have the number. The insurer may need to contact the tenant for information which you may not have.
• Flooding can cause structural damage. The roof line is often a good indicator, check for any changes. If you suspect there is a problem, inform your home insurer and get the property checked out as soon as possible.
Once the waters have receded the clean-up can begin. Remember that floodwater can be contaminated; take sensible precautions (e.g. using rubber gloves) during the clean-up will help, make sure children and animals are not exposed to contaminated water.
• Check with your local authority or health authority to find out where you can get help with the clean-up. Look under 'Flood Damage' in the Yellow Pages - you will need cleaning materials and equipment to dry out your house.
• Open doors and windows for ventilation. But don't forget security. Ensure your house and valuables are safe. Use a dehumidifier when the windows are closed. Also make sure you clear mud and silt from all airbricks.
• Contact your gas, electricity and water suppliers. Don't switch on power without having everything checked, and taking advice first. Make sure you run water for several minutes before using it.
• Throw away any food which could have been in contact with floodwater.
• If you can, switch on your central heating, but keep it on a constant low temperature. Together with ventilation this will help the house dry out. High temperatures could cause further damage.
• Allowing photos and papers to dry out isn't necessarily the best way to save them. Remove excess water and keep tightly together, in the fridge if possible, then take advice from your insurance company.
• Don't throw away furniture and fittings, your insurance company will want to inspect them. Rubber backed carpets should be lifted and left outside. Hessian backed carpets should be left in place until dry. Once dry, lift the carpet to help dry out areas underneath. Take photo's as you go, to keep a log of the damage in more detail.
• Prepare for the worst: don't think it can't happen again. Even if you're the victim of flash flooding after extreme weather, don't assume the worst is over.
• Most importantly, look after yourself, your tenant, and their family. This is a traumatic time, making sure everyone's OK is more important than moving furniture. If you don't feel you're coping the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help or put in contact with someone who can.