IN the wake of Storm Ciara, a flood insurance expert and Fishlake flooding victim are warning of the dangers of being underinsured and cautioned that thousands of businesses risk ‘losing everything’ if they are hit.
Chris Jenkins, of Farmers & Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB), and Pam Webb, whose spa business and home were destroyed in the recent Fishlake flooding, are urging business owners to check their insurance policies for flooding exclusions or high excesses for flood damage.
Following the devastating flooding of the Doncaster village, Pam’s distress was compounded when she received a phone call from her insurance broker, to advise her that her policy had a flood exclusion clause and she was therefore not covered for flood.
Chris, who specialises in flood insurance, said that, like Pam, many home and business owners only realise there are exclusions or high excesses for flooding on their policy when it’s too late.
Chris said: “Complacency could mean thousands of other businesses face the same fate as Pam. The country was hit by a deluge of rain in recent weeks and months, including Storm Ciara at the weekend, causing untold damage and distress.
“In the UK, flood risks are increasing, due largely to the effects of climate change and an increasing population – and this is only going to get worse.
“What many business owners do not realise is that although some protection can be provided for homeowners as part of the government’s Flood RE initiative, this does not apply to commercial businesses. So, whilst flooded homeowners may have some recourse, businesses are at risk at losing everything, if they haven’t got the right protection in place.
“What you tend to find in flood-affected areas, after the first flood, insurers will raise the excess and reduce the cover. At renewal, the business owner will see the price increase and restrictions on cover applied. I’m aware of lots of businesses who don’t have full flood protection as a result, and don’t realise the implications or full impact until they fall victim.”
Pam was one of hundreds of residents of Fishlake who had their homes and businesses destroyed after the nearby River Don over topped its banks in November consequently flooding Fishlake.
The village, which residents claim had not flooded in 100 years, is still reeling from the effects of the flood, with many seeing in the New Year in temporary accommodation and businesses unable to reopen.
Pam, who has lived at her property since 2004, said she always had cover for flooding but last year, on renewal, flood cover was excluded on both her home and business. She received the devastating news that her insurance company would not pay-out and furthermore the insurer was pulling her renewal offer.
Pam Webb and her team at Truffle Lodge spa before the floods
Following a visit from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Pam contacted the PM’s office asking for help, as she had to find a new insurance provider with five days’ notice. The government put her in touch with Chris, due to his extensive experience in the field.
“I was days away from renewal but Chris came down to see me immediately and by the end of the week, I had an insurance policy agreed, which will include flood cover, once repairs are made and a flood resilience plan is in place,” said Pam, who was able to reopen her business earlier this month, using her own resources and with help from the community.
“This is a huge issue that will impact more and more people. Awareness needs to be raised and more needs to be done. People will often go through comparison sites for insurance and get the cheapest quote, but that insurer may not be signed up to Flood RE cover, may have huge excesses, or completely exclude flooding in order to pass on that cheaper price.
“People also need to realise that they are not immune to flooding because they don’t live near a river – my property and business are not near a river and look what happened me.”
Pam has spoken directly to the Minister responsible for regulating insurance and has urged that a review is conducted into this very topic and the huge delays in insurance companies acting which consequently causes further damage to properties and increased claims.
Chris echoed Pam’s sentiments, saying that it is not just areas that have flooded in the past or are located near waterways that are at an increased flood risk.
According to 2019 Environment Agency report, 2.4million properties are at risk from flooding from rivers and seas, whilst three million properties are at risk from surface water flooding.
“As towns get bigger and new developments crop up, we lose grass to absorb rainwater and put additional strain on the drainage system. This means that areas that have never flooded before are at risk,” said Chris.
“I would urge everyone to check their postcode on the government’s long-term flood risk service and sign up for free flood alerts. If you are in an area that is flood exposed, you should think about putting a flood strategy in place and creating a flood resilience plan – and if in doubt about what you are covered for, seek specialist help.”