Kerry London News

London properties at higher risk of floods than the rest of the UK

Tuesday 9th May
London properties at higher risk of floods than the rest of the UK

In July 2021, extreme rainfall hit London twice, leading to widespread flooding across the city. In some parts of the city, a month’s rain fell in just one hour. Kerry London highlights how London’s property owners can prepare their properties to minimise damage and post-flood repair and restoration costs.

Rainfall patterns in the UK are likely to continue to vary by area and season, with the UK expected to continue experiencing wetter winters and drier summers. However, the latest set of UK climate projections (UKCP18) states that rain that does fall in summer is likely to be more intense than what we currently experience. For example, rainfall that typically occurs once every two years in summer is expected to increase by around 25%. This heavy rainfall will impact the frequency and severity of surface water flooding, particularly in built-up areas such as cities and towns.

Which properties are most affected?

Leading insurer Zurich Insurance’s analysis shows that flooding from torrential rain threatens 42% of the capital’s 301,000 commercial buildings. Their research states that climate change driven flash floods threaten more than two-fifths of businesses in London, highlighting the scale of the problem.

The borough of Kensington and Chelsea had the highest percentage of buildings at threat of flash flooding (63%), followed by Hammersmith and Fulham (56%), Merton (54%), Southwark (54%) and Wandsworth (53%). Basement properties seem to be the most affected, as nearly half (14,780) of London’s 33,205 basements properties in commercial use are exposed to surface water flooding. Of these, 5,692 face a “high” or “extreme” flood risk, with the greatest number of buildings in Westminster.

City Hall also highlights this issue, stating that 200,000 London homes and workplaces are at medium or high risk of surface water floods. Vulnerability mapping showed Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Brent, Tower Hamlets and Newham as the boroughs at particularly high risk of flooding and overheating.

Rainfall and the urban landscape

Climate Change London highlights say London is particularly vulnerable to flash flooding from heavy rainfall because the built-up landscape is impermeable and unable to absorb excess rain. Water runs off roads, roofs and pavements rather than a more porous surface where it can soak into the ground. The legacy of Victorian drainage systems that take away water from the roads isn’t able to cope with the intensity of this volume of rainfall.

Lee Partner, Head of Private Clients and Commercial, said:

“Severe flooding is something we advise commercial property owners to plan for. We work with businesses to offer insurance protection that will get their business up and running as soon as possible should a flood happen.

Accepting that extreme weather is inevitable is an important first step, and having a flood plan is vital to help businesses recover faster. Basement properties are particularly vulnerable, but if owners plan for this risk, it will reduce the impact and interruption to their business activities and income.”

Flood risk planning advice

  • Talk to your insurance broker about insurance protection for your commercial properties or liability insurance to protect against tenants or members of the public getting injured onsite. You can also look at other options including business interruption cover if a flood leaves your properties uninhabitable.
  • Check your flood risk – The government’s website enables commercial property owners to assess the long-term flood risk for their property and sign up for flood warnings.
  • Create a flood plan – The Environment Agency provides a free guide and flood plan, including a list of essential contacts, such as Floodline, insurance contact details, building services, suppliers and evacuation contacts for staff. It’s also important to have a document that shows the locations of property, protective materials and service shut-off points.
  • Future-proof property – Move expensive equipment to higher floors and back up data, plug sockets higher up the walls, and invest in non-return valves to stop sewers backing up.

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Kerry London is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The company is a leading UK independent and Lloyd’s accredited broker, which means that we work with a wide range of niche and major insurers.

This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such or regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. In preparing this note, we have relied on information sourced from third parties, and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to the fullest extent permitted by law.

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