Following today’s publication of The Law Society’s Practice Note on Flood Risk, property and environmental information experts, Landmark Information Group say that instructions do not go far enough to protect potential homeowners.
The Practice Note advises that in all residential and conveyancing transactions, lawyers should mention the issue of flood risk to the client, and when appropriate, make further enquiries.
Chris Taylor, Product Development Director, Landmark Information Group, said: “Today’s Practice Note has been a long time coming and, whilst it is a step in the right direction, it still falls woefully short of ensuring potential homeowners obtain comprehensive flood risk information about the property they are considering purchasing.
“The Practice Note states that solicitors only need ‘mention’ the issue of flood risk to clients. As we have seen in recent years, however, flooding is becoming ever more prevalent and widespread throughout the UK and is striking in areas that have never flooded before. 2012, for example, started with warnings of drought but ended as the wettest year in England since records began. Despite this however, the vast majority of homeowners and potential homeowners may be unaware of the risks they face.
“There are clearly high levels of confusion amongst homeowners regarding flood risk and where responsibility for determining a property’s risk lies. A Landmark-commissioned survey recently revealed that only 42% of people investigated their flood risk before buying their home, whilst 55% of property owners in the UK expect solicitors to automatically investigate a property’s flood risk as part of the conveyancing process. This is simply not the case. With over half of the population misunderstanding what searches have been carried out for their property, the guidelines should be made clearer and solicitors should do more than merely ‘mention’ the issue of flooding to their clients.
“It is vital that legal professionals provide the most comprehensive information possible, covering all types of flood risk, including pluvial (ground water) flooding. This needn’t however, be a difficult and arduous task. Landmark has worked closely with the industry in developing its range of products to help remove the burden from solicitors and aid compliance.
“Our Environmental Reports have benefited from enhanced flood data sets and mapping, and we have significantly enriched our Homecheck Professional Flood Report to provide professionals with a quick and easy means of advising a client on the level or risk to a property, as well as the likelihood of obtaining insurance at standard terms.”
Clive Read, Partner at SGH Martineau LLP, said: “The changes in our climate and increasingly wet summers have led to an increase in clients and lenders who are particularly concerned with a property’s flood risk. They want to be in full knowledge of a property’s risk in order that they may make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
“SGH Martineau LLP uses Homecheck Professional Flood Report as it is the most thorough and detailed of its kind; it drills down to provide detailed information on individual properties, not simply postcode areas or streets. Given buying a property is usually the most expensive item one will ever buy, SGH Martineau LLP knows it is vital purchasers get the best possible information so they know exactly what it is they are buying.”
The report’s professional opinion removes the need for the solicitor to try to interpret factors on behalf of their client and also provides a means by which solicitors can dispel some of the common myths around flooding; for example many people believe that a property needs to be near the sea or a river to be at risk, however that is not the case. Surface water flooding (pluvial flooding) is increasing as a result of a number of factors, including more intense rainfall due to climate change. 1.9 million properties are at risk from surface water flooding, 50,000 of which are at a 1 in 30 annual chance or greater***.
Chris Taylor concludes: “The Statement of Principles, which commits insurers to continue to provide flood insurance for most homes and small business premises, comes to an end in July this year. It is, therefore, absolutely vital that conveyancers are taking all necessary steps to ensure that clients are fully apprised of any all environmental risk concerning a property transaction.”