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How to sort out your insurance after your home is flooded 

Voice Of EU



London was battered by flash floods last weekend, with train and tube stations submerged, a hospital partially evacuated and thousands of properties damaged as almost a month’s worth of rain fell on Sunday.

Similar scenes are being seen across the country as The Met Office issued yellow warnings for thunderstorms and rain in both England and Scotland this week. 

Insurer Aviva says claims are now rolling in from customers affected by ‘flash floods’. These are caused by torrential rain which overwhelms drains, leading to what is more accurately known as surface water flooding.

Torrential rain battered London last weekend, causing damage to many homes

Torrential rain battered London last weekend, causing damage to many homes

Aviva’s data shows that this type of flooding is on the rise, and it says that as many as one in five properties could be at risk.

Such sudden flooding can catch homeowners and businesses off-guard, as it is difficult to predict where and when localised rainstorms will be most intense and problematic.

Climate change is also increasing the occurrence of extreme weather events in general. For example, Aviva said it received 7,600 household storm claims in February 2020, the amount normally seen in a typical year.

Andy Bord, the chief executive of Flood Re, a Government-backed organisation which helps people at high risk of flooding get home insurance, says: ‘We know that climate change is making the planet warmer and wetter.

‘This means our towns and cities are more vulnerable to surface water flooding when unprecedented quantities of rainwater are unable to drain away quickly enough.’

Those unfortunate enough to be affected by floods will be more concerned with salvaging some of their belongings and finding somewhere to stay than making an insurance claim. 

But taking a thorough approach to the situation will maximise the chances of getting full recompense, in order to get homes back to normal as soon as possible. 

We asked insurance and property experts about the steps homeowners need to take in the event of a flood. 

Ensure your safety – and your property’s

First and foremost, homeowners should do what they can to make their property as safe as possible.

Stuart Kerr, managing director of Restorations UK, a company which restores homes after flood and fire damage, says: ‘Safety is the most important factor when first facing a flood. Make sure the immediate area is safe with regards to electrics, gas and blocked drains.’

If your electricity was not turned off at the mains before the flood, get a professional to do this. 

Be careful of standing water if your home has just flooded, as this can contain sewage and chemicals or animal waste, or even an electric current

Be careful of standing water if your home has just flooded, as this can contain sewage and chemicals or animal waste, or even an electric current

Flood water can become electrified if it is in contact with electrical outlets or appliances.

The Environment Agency advises that flood water can contain sewage, chemicals and animal waste; so protective, waterproof clothing and a face mask should be worn if coming into contact with it.

Check your insurance policy

Once you have dealt with any immediate hazards, it is time to contact your insurers. Flood insurance is normally included as part of the buildings insurance taken out when you buy a home. 

However, it will only cover repairs to the structure of a home, and not the possessions inside it. These are covered – all being well – by contents insurance, so more than one claim might need to be made if this is with a separate insurer. 

It is a good idea for homeowners to check what their policy covers, and have the policy number to hand. This might not always be possible after a flood, so making an electronic copy and keeping it in one’s email account can be useful. 

The first thing to look out for is the excess. According to Kerr, excess payments for flooding can vary depending on the insurer’s initial assessment of how much of a flood risk the home is, but are typically up to £1,000.  

These scenes in Nine Elms, South West London, at the weekend were caused by heavy rain overwhelming drains and leading to 'surface water flooding'

These scenes in Nine Elms, South West London, at the weekend were caused by heavy rain overwhelming drains and leading to ‘surface water flooding’ 

Homeowners will also want to check whether there is a limit on what their insurer will pay for repairs, or for replacing contents.

Kerr says the typical sum covered by insurers in cases of flooding can vary from a few thousand to tens of thousands of pounds, ‘dependent upon the extent of buildings damage and the level of contents affected’.

Check whether it is ‘new for old’ insurance, where damaged items are replaced with similar new ones, or indemnity cover, which would only pay the value of the items at the time immediately before the flood. 

For example, new for old insurance would replace a 10-year-old sofa with a brand-new sofa of a similar type, even if it cost more than what the old one was worth.   

Indemnity insurance, meanwhile would pay the owner the £150 value of the old sofa. 

Generally, insurers will replace contents via their own suppliers, and appoint from their own network of contractors for cleaning and repairs.  They may agree to let the homeowner choose other items, or use a different contractor, if the cost is similar or they pay the difference. 

Look out for small print that might invalidate the policy, too.  

‘Homeowners should also be aware that most policies expect the property is not left vacant for period of 30 days or more, so this should be taken into account if residents were away during the flooding,’ says Kerr.  

Contact your insurers

Martin Milliner, claims director at LV= General Insurance, says: ‘When a flood hits, one of the first things a homeowner should do is contact their home insurance company.

‘The person on the end of the phone will want to know the situation, where the customer’s home is and what sort of alternative accommodation will be needed. They’ll also need to know the severity of the flood and the extent of the damage.’

On your first phone call with the insurer, ask if and when they will cover the initial cleaning, and whether they will provide you with alternative accommodation while your home is being repaired.

You will also need details of what they will cover in terms of repairs, or in the case of your contents insurer, replacing damaged items.

They will let you know of any additional information they need to support the claim, and how to move ahead with the clean-up and repair process.

‘The insurer will assess the needs of the customer and provide practical help, such as paying for accommodation if they can’t live at home along with instructing specialists to help with the clear up and drying of the home,’ says Milliner.

‘If the damage is significant, some homeowners may be out of their home for a number of months, so when looking at options of where to live, consider factors such as proximity to schools or the workplace.’ 

Within a couple of days of your first contact, the insurer will assign you a loss adjuster. It is their job to check that your claim is valid, that you have met the conditions set out in your policy and that the amount you are claiming is correct. 

They will report back on this to the insurer.

They may need to visit your home, which should happen within seven days of the water receding – though you may have to wait longer if there has been widespread flooding in your area.

The whole process of restoring your home can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year, depending on how bad the damage is. 

Document your losses

Even if a loss adjuster does come out to visit, the homeowner should carry out a thorough inventory of their property and possessions themselves to make sure nothing is missed.  

Says Milliner: ‘If possible, homeowners should try and have a thorough look around their home to see what has been damaged, including tools or items stored in a garden shed or appliances in kitchen cupboards.’ 

Making a list: Documenting the items that have been lost or damaged during flooding, as well as taking pictures, can help your insurer to understand the severity of the situation

Making a list: Documenting the items that have been lost or damaged during flooding, as well as taking pictures, can help your insurer to understand the severity of the situation

Taking photos and videos of the damage to your home and belongings can also help the insurer understand the severity of the situation, and help the claim get resolved quickly. 

‘Take as many photos as you can and make lists of every item that is damaged and its value,’ says Megson. ‘It sounds like a pain but the insurer will ask for these. If you have receipts, then try and find these too.

‘Getting organised is the last thing you want to do in this scenario, but it will save you so many headaches and so much time down the line.’

As tempting as it is to get your soggy, broken belongings out of the house, these will need to be kept until the loss adjuster’s visit.

‘It’s important to also not dispose of anything from the property, even if it’s been damaged, as the insurer will need to see it to see the impact of the flood,’ Milliner adds.

The Environment Agency also suggests using a permanent pen to mark the level that the flood water reached in every room. 

Think about appointing a loss assessor

A loss assessor is a third-party person that a homeowner can appoint to represent their interests when making an insurance claim – in much the same way that the loss adjuster represents the insurance company.

They will handle calls and meetings with the insurer and their representatives, prepare the claim and negotiate with the aim of getting the best possible settlement. They will also deal with situations where a claim has been refused.

Jamie Megson, director at Avail Mortgage Brokers, warns that some insurers will try and ‘wriggle out’ of claims if the homeowner has not disclosed that they are in a flood risk area, for example. 

Some insurers will dispute flood claims if the policy holder did not warn them that the home was in a flood risk area - although they should have this information in their own records

Some insurers will dispute flood claims if the policy holder did not warn them that the home was in a flood risk area – although they should have this information in their own records

But he says it is worth holding firm on this point, as insurers should have access to this information from their own research – and it will likely have been factored into the premium.

‘Some insurers will try and wriggle out of claims saying that the client hasn’t disclosed the property as being in a “flood risk area” for example – even though they have access to the flood maps from the Land Registry and other software they use, and they check these via the postcode of the property.

‘It is a way of not paying out claims to keep insurance premiums down, which is totally wrong.’

Having a professional in your corner could help in situations like this, although you may have to pay for a loss assessor’s services. They will charge in one of two ways. 

Some charge you a percentage of the claim value, typically between five and ten per cent of the final payout. 

Others do not charge you directly but earn a commission from the contractors they employ to carry out the required repair work.

Look for an assessor that is registered with the Chartered Insurance Institute.

Mitigate the damage

While you are going through the claims process, you will want to prevent any further damage to your home from any remaining water or moisture in the air. 

Any residual damage that occurs after the main event is known in the industry as ‘secondary damage’.

‘Mitigating damage is essential, for example by hiring dehumidifiers,’ says Kerr. ‘These steps to reduce harm to your contents and home should also be documented for claims.’

Residual damage after a flood is known as secondary damage in the insurance industry

Residual damage after a flood is known as secondary damage in the insurance industry

If there are rooms in your home, such as upstairs rooms, that were not affected by the floods, these need to be protected from the moisture and humidity caused by the remaining water.

‘When customers are at home, they should open all their windows to get air flowing through the house and stop moisture building up,’ says Milliner.

‘Closing all the doors to unaffected rooms can also help. Take extra precautions before doing this to protect any valuables, such as storing them in a locked drawer or a safe, or even removing them from the house altogether.’

How to clean a flooded home 

If your insurer is covering cleaning and drying, it will appoint contractors to do so, and give you a timetable for the work.

If contractors aren’t being appointed to remove the flood water, you can start to remove it from your home with a pump and generator once it is safe to do so. This should only happen when the flood water outside your property is lower than it is inside, or it could cause structural damage.

After you have removed the water from your home, it will need to be cleaned to remove harmful substances left behind by the flood water.

‘Water can contain contaminants, silt, sewage and mud, and everything that has been in contact with flood water needs to be washed and disinfected thoroughly,’ says Kerr.

Ordinary household cleaning products and disinfectants can be used, as well as garden hoses – though the Environment Agency warns that high-pressure devices risk spraying contaminated matter into the air.

 Furniture can be swab tested to ensure it is bacteria-free after being sanitised

It says that you should shovel mud away evenly from both sides of the walls, to avoid damage to the structure of your home.

Clearly, items such as beds and sofas are going to be difficult to properly clean as they will soak up the floodwater.

If you are determined to save them, Kerr says they can be professionally cleaned.

‘If needed, items can be swab tested to ensure they are bacteria-free after being sanitised. Odour removal can also be required to remove damp smells,’ he adds.

… and how to dry it  

Once the home is clean, it needs to be dried. 

Frustratingly this is usually the longest part of the process, taking as long as a few months in some cases, and most repairs can’t be carried out until it happens. In less severe cases it is possible to do this with open windows, dehumidifiers, and keeping the heating switched on.

If your insurer is not covering contractors to help with the drying process, this is the cheapest option.

The Environment Agency says that gas or oil central heating can be turned on if it has been checked by an engineer, and should be kept between 20 to 22 degrees to aid drying.

However, to speed up the process, or in more severe cases, contractors will use specialist equipment to extract moisture and prevent mould.

‘Vacuum systems and high-pressure drying are the most common techniques which ensure minimum disruption and low costs to what can be an already expensive and stressful time,’ says Kerr.

And don’t forget any important documents in the drying process.

‘Items like important documents or fine art will need to be evaluated, and the latter should be airdried or can be frozen to aid restoration,’ says Kerr.

Items that haven’t been damaged may need to be placed in storage while the drying takes place.

At the end of the drying process, the company will give you a certificate so you can prove that your home is ready for repairs.

Repair the damage  

The final step in getting a flood-damaged home back to normal is carrying out repairs.

This could include almost anything depending on the location and extent of the damage, but common jobs include tiling, carpentry, plastering, plumbing, painting and installing new kitchens and bathrooms.

As with any repair job, make sure you get a variety of quotes – but be aware that a better-quality repair job might help avoid more damage in future.

‘Cheap repairs may end in further problems down the line so use reputable companies and not just the cheapest if you’re claiming,’ says Megson.

You should also take into account repairs that could protect your home if there was another flood.

Your insurer may be willing to help with the cost of these, if you can make a case that they will reduce any future claims. 

Repairs to flood-proof your home 

According to the HomeOwners Alliance, the following repairs could help mitigate the damage from floods:

Move electrical sockets higher up the wall Moving plug sockets to a height of about 1.5metres means they are less likely to be damaged, but will cost around £1,000-£4,000

Replace wooden floors and carpets Concrete with a damp-proof membrane and ceramic tiles are preferable to wooden floorboards

Quick release internal doors These can be quickly and easily lifted off their hinges and moved out of the way so that they don’t absorb flood water

…or get them raised You can have your door thresholds raised above the flood level. The front door and porch could cost from £1,000-£10,000

Replace chipboard and MDF units Materials such as plastic, solid wood and some metals will absorb less water and require less drying out 

Fit water-resistant skirting boards Plastic skirting boards might not be as attractive as wooden ones, but they are less absorbent

Seal exterior walls Applying sealant to the exterior walls will cost around £500, but it may cause damp inside your bricks if they are in bad condition.

Water-resistant air bricks These will cost £500-£1000 and mean you don’t have to fit covers every time it floods

Barriers Building a flood barrier can be expensive (up to tens of thousands of pounds) but your neighbours may be willing to pool their resources

Landscaping The outside areas of your home can also be designed in order to divert water away from the building

Protect your doors and windows If you don’t have time to fit flood-resistant doors and windows and a flood is expected, you can fit flood boards. This will cost around £500-3000 and it will require fixtures which will be permanently visible on your building

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Everybody over 16 to get booster shots following Niac recommendations

Voice Of EU



Everybody over the age of 16 in the State will now be offered booster shots following a decision by the Department of Health based on advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

The booster shot will be offered in order of preference to pregnant women first, then those aged 40 to 49 and finally those aged between 16 and 39 in descending order starting with the oldest first.

They will receive their extra jab in these cohorts at least five months after their last vaccine, but, in the case of those who have been given the one shot Janssen vaccine, the gap will be at least three months.

Those who have had Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated before will have to wait at least six months following infection to receive their dose.

It now means that everybody over the age of 16 will be offered a booster as Niac has already approved the shots for everybody who is 50 or over.

Booster shots were first recommended for those over 80 or those over the age of 65 in nursing homes in September. Last month the programme was extended to 60 to 79 year olds and on November 15th to those between 50 and 59.

This advice received by Niac reflects the recommendations made in respect of booster doses in the latest European Centre of Disease Control (ECDC) rapid risk assessment which recommends that countries should consider a booster dose for all adults with priority being given to people aged 40 years of age and above.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it will be some time before the new cohorts get their vaccine as they have not reached the recommended gap since the second dose.

“We continue to prioritise boosters because we know that they are having a positive impact on the level of hospitalisation, severe illness and mortality from Covid-19 in those aged over 70,” Mr Donnelly said.

The HSE has started offering walk-in clinics for Covid-19 booster vaccines to people in their 60s and to healthcare workers at designated times through its vaccination centres.

In a speed-up of the booster programme, the walk-in clinics will be available to eligible groups once it has been at least five months since their second dose of a Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca jab in their initial vaccinations, or three months since the individual received the single Janssen vaccine.

The booster rollout will also be accelerated for those who are in their 60s.

Damien McCallion, the HSE’s national lead for vaccinations and testing, said that many of the 470,000 people in their 60s will only become eligible for boosters over the coming weeks.

The walk-in clinics will allow the HSE to administer booster doses more quickly. Details of the times and locations of the walk-in vaccinations are available on the HSE’s website.

“We are very conscious that life has moved on for many people and it isn’t always possible for people to come forward on an appointment basis,” he told the weekly HSE briefing.

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How can I ensure my listed home’s kitchen extension has right approvals? 

Voice Of EU



I’m buying a listed property and want to make sure a recent kitchen extension was done with the right approvals. 

How do I check this and protect myself on this front? LP

Before buying a period property, check for the correct consents if any renovation work was carried out

Before buying a period property, check for the correct consents if any renovation work was carried out

MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: Before buying a period property with a recent kitchen extension, you will need to check that the relevant consents were sought.

This is because you will inherit the liability for any unauthorised work undertaken by the vendor.

Ultimately, this risk can be removed completely by reversing the works carried out – if that is possible – or by applying retrospectively for consent for the kitchen extension.

There are compromises that can be made, including looking at an indemnity insurance that will cover you and bank against the cost of rectifying unauthorised alterations.

And if you are a cash buyer, then you can decide to proceed on the basis that you will accept the risk for the lack of consent.

Vanessa Rhodes, of law firm Kingsley Napley, said: If you’re looking to buy a house that is listed, it is likely to be a unique and interesting property full of character. You are right that being listed means there are additional controls over any works to the property.

The National Heritage List for England protects buildings of special architectural or historical interest, which are considered to be of national importance. It means listed building consent is required for all works of demolition, alteration or extension to a listed building.

Local planning authorities provide approval for works to listed buildings. Where the works have an impact on the external appearance of the building, planning permission may also be required and should be applied for at the same time. 

For example, this may include building an extension or installing new windows and doors. 

Below, Vanessa covers what you need to know: 

How do I check necessary consents were obtained?

Make sure that you instruct a specialist heritage surveyor to review the property and all the planning and listed building consents for the property to verify the corrects consents were obtained.

This can be in addition to having a regular building survey carried out or some surveyors will do both in one survey. 

The heritage survey should make clear whether the kitchen extension was approved, and what to do if it isn’t. 

You can get heritage surveyors that will do both in one survey and charge the same as a standard building survey but frequently, clients will instruct one in addition to the building surveyor and they are usually slightly cheaper.

Heritage surveys also provide historic building and heritage conservation advice to assist buyers who will be responsible for the practical care of historic buildings.

Your solicitor will review the results of the local authority search for the property, which reveals all the permissions obtained from the local planning authority for the property. 

They will also raise enquiries with the seller to find out if the right consents have been obtained and check that any conditions on the listed building consents have been discharged or, if there are on-going conditions that they are being complied with.

Your solicitor and heritage surveyor will also check to see if the work was done before the building was listed. If this is the case, there will be no issue as no listed building consent will have been needed.

Why is checking important?

It is essential to check if the previous owners obtained the relevant consents because you will inherit the liability for any unauthorised work they undertook.

Given there is no time limit on enforcement action, you may be required to reverse the alteration at any time in the future. In effect, therefore you may potentially have to ‘undo’ or alter the kitchen extension if it lacked approval. 

This could be costly and may reduce the value and your enjoyment of the property, so should be carefully considered before proceeding with the purchase.

It is also a criminal offence not to seek listed building consent when it is required. 

The maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. Not knowing a building is listed, or claiming the works were carried out by a previous owner are not defences to any criminal proceedings.

Your options as a buyer

As the buyer, you need to consider the extent of any liability you might take on before proceeding with the purchase. 

If you find that works have been carried out to the property without the appropriate consents or the listed building consent conditions have been breached, you will need to consider the extent of the breach. 

The heritage surveyor will normally guide you as to whether you will be able to obtain retrospective listed building consent for the breach and which breaches could be problematic.

If the kitchen extension was not approved, there are various things that you can do as part of the conveyancing process to alleviate any stress or anxiety about the consent, and ultimately protect yourself.

The way to remove the risk completely is to reverse the alteration – if possible – or for you or the seller to apply retrospectively for consent for the kitchen extension. 

You may elect to negotiate a conditional contract with the seller, which stipulates that you will only complete the purchase of the property when the seller has obtained retrospective consent for the kitchen extension if it was unapproved.

Most sellers will be reluctant to agree to this approach because if they apply for retrospective consent and are unsuccessful, then it draws the issue to the attention of the local planning authority who are then likely to serve an enforcement notice on the seller in relation to the alterations.

Alternatives include negotiating a price reduction to cover the costs and hassle of obtaining retrospective consent for the extension after completion. 

Any price negotiation should include recognition of the fact that the buyer will be accepting the risk for the lack of consent, and any liability that comes with it.

If you are a cash buyer, then you can decide to proceed on the basis that you will accept the risk for the lack of consent. 

However, if you are using a mortgage, the bank will require you to obtain indemnity insurance, which will cover you and the bank against the cost of rectifying unauthorised alterations. 

You will need to discuss the indemnity insurance policy with your solicitor though as they often include provisions that invalidate the policy if you approach the local planning authority for consent for any works in the future.

For example, if you want to carry out alterations to another part of the property and apply for consent then this could invalidate the policy. 

There are some more bespoke indemnity policies available that might get round this problem but these policies can be costly or have a high excess.

Another factor to bear in mind is that if the kitchen extension was carried out without proper consent, then you, in turn, will have to deal with this problem as part of any future sale of the property unless you and the seller can resolve the issue now, either by removing or adapting the alterations or by obtaining retrospective consent.

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Irish shoppers set to splash €40m on Black Friday spree

Voice Of EU



The impact of Brexit, tax changes and global supply chain issues have presented Irish retailers with a chance to win new customers and ensure more spending stays local over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period according to retail groups.

Close to €40 million will be spent by Irish consumers on Friday alone, according to research from AIB, with this weekend now marking the start of the Christmas season for many shops and shoppers.

While deep discounting at the end of November is being resisted by some smaller operations, others have embraced it and are hoping it will be a launchpad for a solid Christmas.

“I think the general view out there is that this first big weekend of the Christmas period and in these more difficult times it is being used as a footfall driver,” said Retail Excellence chief executive Duncan Graham.

He said he understood why some smaller independent retailers continued to resist going into sale so close to Christmas but added that for others it had become an inevitability.

“There have been mixed views,” he said. “In some cases it can be a case of wanting to hold the margins for as long as possible otherwise it ends up being a short season.”

He noted that an air of optimism he had seen across the retail sector at the start of the month had diminished in recent weeks as the trajectory of Covid-19 grew more concerning.

“There is a little bit of unease and anxiety at what might happen in retail and so much will depend on the path of the virus,” he said.

Buy Irish

Bríd O’Connell of Guaranteed Irish said Black Friday should be considered an opportunity for retailers to push more locally sourced products.

“We are asking all shops to stock more Irish suppliers,” she said. “The support for local shops only goes so far if everything the shop stocks comes from China.”

She called on consumers to look towards Irish-made products this weekend. “If you are buying a candle, I really would like to see people buy an Irish luxury candle . . . and if we could all spend an extra €20 or €50 on an Irish product this year that money will stay in the country and make a big difference to the local economy.”

Joann (SIC) Mahon is going all in on Black Friday this year. She owns two retail outlets in Kildare and has an increasingly large digital footprint.

“A lot of people spend a lot of time researching ahead of time and I think that there are more eyes on your business as a result,” she said.

“I embraced Black Friday early and I could really see the impact,” she continued. “Every year it has grown and it can generate long term custom if it done right but most people won’t come back again unless they are properly encouraged to do so.”

She said that since the start of the pandemic she had noticed a bounce in business as more people shopped locally and it had kept going this year. “I haven’t seen the drop off from last year from April of last year. People want to support Irish and that has been boosted by Brexit.”

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