Selling a home with historic flooding? What you need to do.

Updated: October 8, 2018

If you're selling a home that has flooded, how much detail should you be giving potential buyers, and what can you do to make it less likely to affect a sale?

Flooded house

What counts as a ‘flood’?

From an insurance point of view, if water comes into your home from outside – a river which has burst its banks, rain, the sea, surface water etc – this is classed as 'flooding'.

If something happens within your home such as a leaky pipe, this is instead termed ‘an escape of water’. 

Anyone whose home has flooded is unlikely to be quibbling in their mind over its definition; you can’t really miscategorise a flood.

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Do I have to mention historic flooding?

Legally you don’t have to tell your buyer, but in reality you won’t get away with not mentioning it. When you sell your home you will be required to fill in a Seller’s Property Information Form (SPIF), and this will ask you direct and detailed questions about whether your property has ever been flooded.  This form is then sent to the buyer's solicitor in response to the standard pre-contract enquiries.

Specifically the form asks:

Has any part of the property (whether buildings or surrounding garden or land) ever been flooded?

If you choose not to respond to this questions, the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will certainly pick up on this and investigate further. There is certainly no point lying on the form.

The flooding will almost certainly be picked up on the environmental search report carried out by the buyer. Searches are a standard part of the conveyancing protocol and are nearly always carried out. 

If you did decide to be economical with the truth and the search did not pick it up, you could reasonably expect to be sued by the buyer at a later date.

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In fact, you should give as much detail as possible

You must be frank and open from the onset about any historical flooding at your property. The conveyancing process is not simply trying to ascertain whether or not your home has ever flooded, but more importantly whether it is likely to flood again

Highlighting every preventative step that has been taken since your house flooded is essential. Are there now flood defences in place? What specific flood-proofing renovations have been made in and around your house? Highlight every detail of work carried out to protect your home from flooding again.

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Why did your house flood?

There are different types of flooding, including: 

  • Coastal
  • River
  • Ground water
  • Surface water
  • Sewer

Some incidences of flooding are more likely to recur than others; if your home flooded due to exceptional circumstances that are highly unlikely to be repeated, say so and detail why.

The best thing you can do is to be upfront from the start, and give as many details as you can to demonstrate the measures taken to prevent your home from flooding again.

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Should I pull out?

If the property has experienced historic flooding it does not necessarily mean you should not buy the house.  The risk of future flooding may be low or tolerable for you.  More importantly you should satisfy your self that affordable buildings insurance can be obtained to cove r the risk.  Your mortgage lender will require this as a condition of lending.

Since 2013, the Government has made it easier for high flood risk properties to obtain affordable insurance against flooding with its 'Flood Re' initiative.

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What is Flood Re?

Flood Re is a joint initiative between the government and the insurance industry.  Should the property flood in the future, the Government, through Flood Re, will effectively underwrite the flood risk part of the policy for a fixed affordable price.

Some properties are not eligible.  See the Flood Re website for more details.


 

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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