This week has seen a sunny reprieve from the incessant downpours that have caused misery in the UK, but for homeowners the repercussions of a very wet summer look set to linger.
The cost of the flood damage for insurance companies is estimated to be £3bn, making it the most expensive weather-related UK event for insurers.
And the knock-on effect is expected to be a substantial increase in home insurance premiums for millions of policyholders.
No matter where you live, if you have taken out a home insurance policy with Norwich Union you can already expect to see your payments increase by an average of 10 per cent.
If you live in an area close to a river, the sea, or an area prone to overflowing drainage ditches, then your premiums are likely to go up by much more than this. Experts say a rise of 20 to 30 per cent is possible.
Some homeowners in the most high-risk areas might even find they are refused cover from their existing insurer, and will have to pay an even higher premium for specialist cover.
Providers say they will try to continue to insure policyholders whose homes have been flooded, but may have to review certain cases on an individual basis and could terminate contracts on their renewal dates.
Norwich Union, which underwrites about a fifth of the UK home insurance market, says home and contents insurance premiums have remained broadly unchanged for a decade and they were therefore due to be reviewed anyway.
Insurance experts believe several other providers are likely to follow Norwich Union’s lead although no other insurer has yet committed to price rises.
On the flipside, the fact that Norwich Union has been so open about the increases it intends to make to premiums could open the door for a number of other providers to undercut its rates.
Some providers have been quick to point out they will not hike up premiums in the wake of the floods. Royal & Sun Alliance, the parent company of More Than insurance, says it has increased premiums during the last few years and so will not need to raise them substantially now.
Royal Bank of Scotland, the second-largest home insurer, which owns Churchill, Direct Line and Privilege, and Liverpool Victoria also say they have progressively increased premiums and will not put up rates across the board as a result of the summer floods.
The British Insurance Brokers’ Association has encouraged anyone facing increases to the cost of their home insurance to move to another provider when their existing contract ends. The group has specialist brokers that can help find the most suitable policies in the market.
James Harrison, chief executive of insurancewide.com, says one of the most vital things to remember is not to let your insurance lapse: “Plan early. Before the contract with your insurer is up for renewal, get in contact with them and find out whether they will still cover you and what hike there might be in your premium.”
If your insurance deal is likely to increase enormously, then this will give you plenty of time to shop around for an alternative contract. Comparison websites such as confused.com, moneysupermarket.com and insurancewide.com can help with this.
You may consider a specialist. Insurancewide.com says Bureau Insurance Services (www.bureauinsure.co.uk) is a niche provider specialising in flood insurance protection.
Don’t worry about losing out on your no-claims bonus if you swap provider. The insurance company you move to will take into account the number of previous claims you have made and will ask for proof of these.
If your insurance is bumped up, check that your property’s risk profile matches that of your postcode.
If you are in a high risk postcode area but your house is on a hill, then you should not be subject to the same risks as those closer to the water source and should not be paying the same rates.
Some providers, such as Royal and Sun Alliance, say they will look at individual properties rather than postcodes when assessing risk.
The majority of damage done to homes when they are flooded is caused by the very first inch of water. This inflow ruins floorboards, sofas and appliances, which are all expensive to replace – so it is a good idea to take extra precautions that can reduce premiums and help you gain insurance in the first place.
One method, which insurancewide.com advocates, is a system of protection by Floodguards (www.floodguards.com), which seal air vents, doors and windows to prevent water seeping in.
Since your home is likely to be your biggest asset, make sure you have correctly identified what you want to insure and you have disclosed all relevant details.
You should insure your home for the cost of rebuilding it, not the price you paid or its value now.
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