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How to sort out your insurance after your home is flooded 

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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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Aparto debuts in Spain

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Aparto has unveiled its first student residence in Spain to open in September 2022. Aparto Barcelona Pallars, owned by Commerz Real, is located in the 22@, the city’s innovation district, and accommodates 743 beds covering 26,000m². The cutting-edge facilities at aparto Barcelona Pallars include an external circa 45-metre length infinity pool, a 900 square metre rooftop terrace, 2,500m² of gardens including the Butterfly Garden (named because of the type of plants that attract butterflies), the Smell Garden (due to the mixture of aromatic plants), 1,400m² of amenity space including a gym with a weight, cardio, and yoga studios, two cinema rooms, leisure areas, and a bar offering both food and drink services.

 

In addition, a central feature of aparto’s offering is its first-class experience with a focus on the arts including an initiative in which street artists will design some of the paintings on the building, and a mental health programme available to all students all year around, strengthened by aparto employees receiving mental health training to identify anyone who may need help. 

 

aparto Barcelona Pallars has been designed by the Catalonian architecture studio Battle i Roig, a pioneer in landscape architecture, interweaving structures with natural spaces like gardens. Upon construction completion, the building will receive the LEED Gold and WELL Platinum Certifications for sustainability. 

 

aparto offers students a unique safe study experience and flexible model offering medium and long-term stays, from a few months to a full year, with all-inclusive rates including cleaning, Wi-Fi connection, linen services, and some additional features related to sports and wellness sessions, cocktail and cooking classes, and a series of entertainment evenings including movie nights, sports matches and tournaments. Aparto’s focus is to create places where students feel at home living within a strong community.

  

Tom Rix, director of operations at aparto, UK, commented: “With Aparto Barcelona Pallars, Hines is introducing first-class student housing in Spain. Pallars mirrors what today’s students want in terms of facilities, amenities, community engagement, and wellbeing programmes. We have already successfully demonstrated that this innovative model is in high demand in Italy, Ireland, and the UK and we anticipate the same success here in Spain and can’t wait to welcome students to Barcelona.”

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Crossrail house price boom: Reading, Maidenhead and Slough set to become property hotspots

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Crossrail may be billions of pounds over budget and three-and-a-half years late but it’s finally ready to roll.

This extraordinary feat of engineering is due to be put into service on Tuesday, when it will adopt its correct title of the Elizabeth Line. 

The Queen made a surprise visit to Paddington station this week and officially opened the line.

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

Linking Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east with Heathrow and Reading to the west of the capital, it will bind together existing commuter railways, accelerating cross-city travel and relieving overcrowding on the London Underground — particularly the often hellish Central Line.

Commuters’ journey times will be slashed; Reading to London Liverpool Street, for example, will take under an hour.

When fully operational it will increase London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent, making it the largest single expansion of the city’s transport network in more than 70 years.

There are still a few glitches to be ironed out. Initially passengers travelling from Reading in the west to Abbey Wood and beyond will have to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street mainline stations. 

Also Bond Street is three months behind schedule. Trains will not call there until later in the year. Yet these delays pale into insignificance when you consider how the Elizabeth Line will transform rail travel in the capital.

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

The new station at Paddington, for example, is the size of three Wembley football pitches, with natural light as far as the platform entry from a nearly 400ft-long glass canopy.

More than £1 billion has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks. Spacious tunnels will lead to airy 600 ft platforms, with glass screens at the edge of the tracks, making it impossible to fall under a train. 

Step-free access from street to train will make the service accessible to wheelchairs. 

The nine-car, air-conditioned trains will have colourful bench seats and open interiors with full-width walk-through connections between cars. It will be a world away from today’s cramped, cluttered carriages.

Few engineering projects change the way we live but The Elizabeth Line promises to do just that. People are already flocking to the new stations.

Research from Savills last year found that, over the past five years, homes within 0.6 mile of about half of the stations on the line have increased in price by 25 per cent or more.

It follows that when the sleek and airy new trains come into service, delivering people to their workplaces in double quick time, we can expect a migration to the west of London.

Here are the hotspots:

Reading revival

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Not so long ago Reading was best known for its brewery and its biscuit factory — not any more. 

International companies, including Amazon UK, Virgin Media and KPMG have moved there and with reasonably priced homes, compared to London, the town is already popular with commuters.

‘I recently dealt with a young woman who sold her 750 sq ft flat in London for £600,000 and bought a 1,750 ft duplex in Reading for £650,000,’ says James Hathaway, of Winkworth estate agents.

The town has lots of green space, riverside walks, the Grade II-listed Thames Lido and great shopping, notably in Broad Street and the Oracle centre. The average price of a home sold in Reading was £384,000 last year.

Compare that to the £512,000 average price in, say, East London and you will see why an exodus from the capital is forecast when the Elizabeth Line makes commuting a doddle.

Maidenhead marches on

This Berkshire town is keen to attract the City bankers who had previously been put off living there by having to trek across the capital’s underground system to get to work.

‘The Elizabeth Line changes all that and buyer enquiries have already started booming,’ says Dawn Carritt at Jackson-Stops estate agents.

‘The prospect of living near the river in Maidenhead or in nearby villages such as Sonning and Bray is appealing.’

Maidenhead (with Theresa May as its MP) is on the cusp of a revival. Its 1960s shopping centre is to be transformed into The Nicholson Quarter, a swish mixed-use centre.

The area by the river is being developed and trendy cocktail bars and restaurants such as Coppa Club are thriving — a sure sign of a town on the up.

Slough expansion

Ricky Gervais did Slough no favours when he set The Office there. Yet the town has a lot going for it. It is well located for travel, nestling between the M4 and the M40 and within easy reach of the M25 and Heathrow airport.

First-time buyer portal Share to Buy claims that Slough has been one of the UK’s top ten property hotspots over the past decade with a 73 per cent increase in house prices. 

The Berkeley Group is redeveloping the former Horlicks factory and site to create 1,300 homes.

A small flat sells for £150,000 and a three-bed terrace house for £350,000. The centre is being improved and with the coming of the Elizabeth Line, things can only get better.

On the market… the hotspots 

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Australia’s opposition Labour party poised to topple ruling conservatives

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The Australian Labour party will topple the ruling conservatives at a national election although it may have to form a minority government, the Australian Broadcasting Corp said on Saturday.

Initial vote counts showed prime minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition and the Labour opposition losing ground to smaller parties like the environment-focused Greens and climate-focused independents.

Neither of the major parties appeared certain to win the minimum 76 seats required for a majority in the 151-seat parliament, but Labour appeared on track to win more than 70 seats, the ABC said.

“Labour is 72 and needs 76 seats to govern. There are 11 members of the crossbench, most of whom support action on climate change,” said ABC election analyst Antony Green in a live broadcast.

“If Labour falls short and it wants to form government, it can talk to the Greens or it can talk to the crossbench.”

Cable television station Sky News ran a chyron which said: “Labour tracking towards election victory”.

In addition to this two television stations projected on Saturday that the ruling conservative coalition cannot win enough seats to form a government, after the government lost ground to climate-focused independents and smaller parties.

The struggles of prime minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition, and to a lesser extent the opposition Labour Party led by Anthony Albanese, raised the prospect of a hung parliament and period of uncertainty while a record number of postal votes are counted.

“At the moment, I can’t see the coalition getting to a majority on these numbers,” the Australian Broadcasting Corp’s election analyst Antony Green said in a live broadcast.

Centre-left Labour had held a decent lead in opinion polls after nine years in opposition, although recent surveys showed the Liberal-National government narrowing the gap in the final stretch of a six-week campaign.

A Newspoll survey by The Australian newspaper out on election day showed Labour’s lead over the ruling coalition dipping a point to 53-47 on a two-party-preferred basis, where votes for unsuccessful candidates are redistributed to the top two contenders.

But growing dissatisfaction over policies, candidate selection and integrity saw voters turn away from both major parties.

Teal

In several affluent Liberal-held seats, so-called “teal independents” campaigning for action on climate change after some of the worst floods and fires to hit Australia, looked likely to win.

Three volunteers working for teal independent Monique Ryan, who is running against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the long-held Liberal seat of Kooyong in Melbourne, said they joined Ryan’s campaign because they are concerned about the climate for the sake of their children and grandchildren.

“For me, it’s like this election actually feels hopeful,” Charlotte Forwood, a working mother of three adult children, told Reuters.

With 82 per cent of polling booths counted, Ryan was projected to win 53 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

Early returns suggested the Greens had also made ground, especially in some urban centres, while billionaire Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and Pauline Hanson’s right-wing One Nation also looked to have gained votes at the expense of both major parties.

Greens leader Adam Bandt, who retained his inner city Melbourne seat, said climate was a major issue for voters.

“There was an attempt from Labour and Liberal to bury it, and we were very clear about the need to tackle climate by tackling coal and gas.”

Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese earlier cast their votes in Sydney after making whistle-stop tours across marginal seats in the final two days of a campaign dominated by rising living costs, climate change and integrity.

As Labour focused on spiking inflation and sluggish wage growth, Mr Morrison made the country’s lowest unemployment in almost half a century the centrepiece of his campaign’s final hours.

In the outgoing parliament, the Liberal-National coalition held 76 of the 151 lower house seats, while Labour held 68, with seven minor party and independent members.

Voting is compulsory and more than half of votes had been cast by Friday evening, with a record 8 million early in-person and postal votes, the Australian Electoral Commission said.

The commission has cautioned that a clear winner might not immediately emerge if it is a close contest, due to the time required to count about 3 million postal votes. – Reuters

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