How to minimise flood damage to your property

If you're a landlord or small business, here's what to do before, during and after a flood to minimise the damage to your property.

What to do before a flood

Flood damage prevention and reduction

It pays to do all you can to minimise the potential flood damage to your property and interruption to your business.

Here are some steps you can take beforehand to help reduce the impact of a flood.

Find out the flood risk for your area

Be aware of weather warnings and the likelihood of flooding to your property and surrounding area. If you're in England or Wales, you can check here whether your property is in a flood risk area. Or for Scotland, check out Scottish Environment Protection Agency's (SEPA) website.

There is also information on flood risk areas at the Met Office.

Flood-proofing your property

If you're in a flood risk area or are concerned about flood, the following actions can help reduce the degree of flood damage to your property:

  1. Air brick covers or water-resistant air bricks help stop water entering the wall. Speak to an expert to find out what solution is best for your property.
  2. On the ground floor concrete with a damp-proof membrane or ceramic tiles are more ideal than wooden floors or carpets. Rugs are also better than fitted carpets in this instance as they can easily be moved if there's a flood warning.
  3. Ensure that the skirting boards are varnished or water-resistant.
  4. You may also be able to improve the flood resistance of internal wall surfaces. There are several measures you can take depending on the type of wall and surface finish. It's best to speak to an expert to find out the best solution for your property.
  5. Raise the threshold and fit synthetic, waxed or varnished doors and windows that will resist flood water.
  6. If you don't have time to fit flood-resistant doors and windows before a flood, you can fit flood boards instead.
  7. Non-return valves should be fitted to all drains and pipes.

Sandbags are the most effective way of steadying the flow of oncoming water. It's worth having these to hand at the property if you live in a flood risk area, or at least knowing where you can get sandbags nearby. Local councils will often have a store of these to supply, but the quicker you can request them the likelier they'll be available.

Demand may be high in a flood risk situation, so consider buying unfilled bags and sand from a DIY outlet or builders' merchant and making your own.

Minimising the impact of a flood beforehand

Here's what to factor in to help reduce the impact of a flood on your property or business:

  • Identify things that must be removed from the property if it needs to be evacuated. If you run a small business you may be able to remove key equipment that could get damaged or destroyed.
  • Make a list of key contacts, including the local environment agency, utility providers, your insurance company, the local council and the radio station.
  • List names and contact details of people who can help in the event of a flood, such as friends and relatives.
  • If it's a rental property, persuade your tenants to prepare an emergency flood kit, which would include water and food, torch, warm clothing and blankets, insurance documents, first aid kit, prescription medicines and important contact details.
  • Establish the best way to prevent flood water entering the property.
  • Decide how vehicles will be removed from the flood risk area.
  • Check your insurance is appropriate and covers flooding.

The government also provides up-to-date information on flooding online.

Insurance for flooding

If you're a landlord or a small business owner, you will want to ensure that your property has the appropriate cover for flood damage.

For landlord, buildings insurance will cover the rental property for:

  • Fire, lightning, explosion or earthquake damage.
  • Storm or flood.
  • Escape of water.

Landlords can also get contents insurance. This insures fixtures and fittings that aren't a permanent part of the building's structure. It will cover cost of repairing or replacing damaged furniture and items such as carpets, kitchenware and electrical goods. Bear in mind that landlord content insurance does not cover items tenants have brought to the property.

For small businesses, you can cover your business in the event of a flood for:

  • Damage to equipment.
  • Damage to stock.
  • Business interruption.
  • Damage to the building.

What to do during a flood

Reach for the sandbags

Sandbags can be used to block drains, air bricks, windows, doors and any other openings to the property. You may also want to secure any bulky or dangerous objects which could do damage if they were being carried along in the flood tide.

Avoid further damage: turn off the utilities

It's vital that you, your tenants or whoever is in the property know where the stopcock, gas and electricity supplies are so that these can be turned off as a matter of urgency.

Think about what's important to save

Here are two key areas water should avoid:

  1. Try to keep water away from electrical sockets and devices where possible. If feasible, a water extractor pump should be used to help get rid of the water as quickly as possible.
  2. If water has started coming into your house, then think about what's irreplaceable. For instance, you may want to prioritise transferring important sentimental items to higher ground.

What to do after a flood

The flood cleanup operation: Flood repairs and restoration

Here's what to do:

  • Inform your insurance company of the flooding.
  • Dry out any rugs and materials as quickly as possible. If you're a landlord, advise your tenants to do this.
  • Clarify with your insurer who'll be responsible for the clean-up operation and what service and equipment they'll provide you.
  • Mark the maximum water level on the walls in every room with a permanent pen and take photographs or make a video to record the damage. Then list the damage to all of your property and items (including food).
  • Keep receipts for all expenditure associated with the flood damage.
  • Keep a written record of all your communications with your insurance company.
  • Don't take up the carpet unless you really have to as it might shrink.
  • Don't throw anything away until the insurance company gives you permission.
  • Check before you go ahead with any redecorating that the property is ready (has dried out) for such work.

No one should return to a flooded property until they've been told by the emergency services that it's safe to do so. When you do return to the property, be aware of possible dangers hidden in flood water, such as sharp objects.

If you don't have insurance cover and your property has already been flooded, contact your local council. They should have details of hardship grants and charities that may be able to help you.

How to make a flood damage claim

Bear in mind to avoid further damage or loss you may need to make sure emergency repairs are carried out immediately.

A plumber may need to come out to fix a leak that would cause further damage. Or a broken door may need to be fixed to ensure nothing is stolen.

Don't wait to see if your insurance will cover you to fix anything that could cause further damage to your property or increased costs for your business.

Just make sure you keep any receipts and records (including photographs) for any emergency repairs. Both will be considered as part of the claim and will help with its settlement.

If you're a Direct Line for Business customer, here's how to claim for flood damage:

  • Register your claim as soon as you can by phoning 0345 303 1753. Lines open: 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays.
  • We can talk through the next steps you'll need to take over the phone and may be able to resolve small claims at the same time.
  • If you call outside of the above business hours, our 24-hour helpline can take details from you, but your claim wont be progressed any further until the next working day. If it's an emergency, you'll receive more specific guidance and support.
  • In the rare instance that the damage is very serious and you need to make a larger claim, we will send a loss adjuster to assess the damage and establish a timetable for any repair work. The loss adjuster in some instances can provide advice over the phone or in person to help reduce the impact of the damage.
  • If you're a landlord and your tenants are forced to live somewhere else while the repairs are made, your insurance should cover some of the cost of temporary accommodation. Be sure to check your policy.
  • If your policy includes Flood cover and your small business can't trade due to the flood, Business Interruption will cover you for your loss of income.
  • Check with your claims adviser before anything is thrown away. You might need to keep hold of it for the claims process.