Estate agents and property search websites should provide traffic-light style information indicating flood risk for the locations of the homes they list, says the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
This can be done using publicly available Environment Agency data.
At present no property search websites include flood risk information for the location of properties they list; yet they provided data on anything from school catchment areas to most commonly read newspapers in the area.
A new survey of over 2,000 UK adults showed that nine out of ten people agreed flood risk information should be included on material about properties for sale.
Environment Agency data shows that 2.4 million properties in England are currently at risk of river or coastal flooding, an additional three million properties are at risk of surface water flooding, and 600,000 of these are at risk of both.
Following the winter floods of 2013/14, insurers paid out more than £450 million in flood claims, while five of the top six wettest years on record have happened since 2000.
The ABI also found a lack of flood risk information on brochures for new build properties and is calling for this to be included in marketing material. Research by the ABI of sales material in 50 of the highest flood risk areas in England and Wales, many of which have been hit by serious flooding in recent years, found none included any warnings about flood risk.
In addition, the ABI says all solicitors and conveyancers need to follow the Law Society’s guidance to conduct specific searches for flood risk, and to arrange for an in-depth assessment by a technical expert if there is any flood risk to the property.
These proposals are in line with a recommendation from the Pitt Review into the 2007 floods, that people buying a property should have access to up-front flood risk information. It would not be a definitive guide to flood risk on an individual property but would be a good indication of where further investigations could be necessary.
The ABI is also publishing a new house hunters’ guide to advise people of the steps they should take in the meantime to stay informed about the flood risk of properties they are considering.
ABI director general Huw Evans said: “With one in six homes at risk of flooding, we need to make thinking about flood risk as much part of the home buying process as school catchment areas and transport links.
“At the moment, information on whether a property is at risk of flooding comes too late, often when people have already invested hundreds if not thousands of pounds in the conveyancing process.
“That’s why we are calling for those who sell properties to include new traffic light warnings on flood risk in a property’s area. You can currently get more information about what paper your new neighbours might read than if a particular property might be at flood risk.”
At the moment, open data is available to be used in this way in England and Wales but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Floods minister Rory Stewart said the government is investing in flood protection at record levels, “with an unprecedented six-year commitment of £2.3 billion to better protect an additional 300,000 homes by 2021”.
He added: “We are making more data and technology available to help people plan and prepare for potential floods, such as the Environment Agency’s free Flood Warnings Service and our advanced flood mapping and forecasting.”