The recent spate of bad weather has hit the UK hard, with some regions being devastated by storms and subsequent flood waters.
Though the country has largely avoided the heavy snowfall that punctuated winter 2012-13, this has been replaced by rising waters and tens of millions of pounds worth of damage to property across the UK.
Any person that lives in a flood-prone area therefore needs to think about the risks involved when taking out any kind of protection for their home and belongings, partially where home insurance is concerned.
Some 5.5 million homes in the UK are classed as being at are at risk of flooding - it is possible to check whether your property is on this list by looking at the Environment Agency's flood maps, where the likelihood of flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water or reservoirs are all taken into account.
Similarly, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Rivers Agency in Northern Ireland each have online maps that show areas of land that may be at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea, so it is important to consult these before going any further.
What is covered?
Generally, the costs of drying out and restoring your home and its fixtures and fittings will be covered by standard buildings insurance, which should pay for the cost of removing debris, professional fees for lawyers, architects or surveyors, and other charges incurred from flood damage.
Where the repair or replacement of damaged furniture and other belongings is concerned, this is likely to covered by contents insurance, with most policies also covering the cost of alternative accommodation.
Despite this, you should never rest on your laurels and always read the small print before committing - it is well worth checking exactly what coverage your policy has and making sure any necessary additional clauses are added, before anything is signed.
As flood insurance claims can cost insurers billions, people in flood-prone areas have been hit hard with policy price rises over the years; in some cases, insurers would rather not insure the most at-risk properties at all.
This, however, would leave beleaguered homeowners stranded in more ways than one, particularly as it is practically impossible to obtain a mortgage without having some form of buildings cover in place.
As such, insurers and the government have worked to devise the Flood Re scheme, which was unveiled in the summer of last year to allow owners of flood-prone homes to be able to buy affordable insurance, with annual premiums capped and payouts for damage coming from a central pot of money.
The scheme covers 350,000 households that the Environment Agency says are at high risk of flooding and applies to all properties in council tax band A to G, with a £210 a year cap for those in bands A and B, rising to £540 a year in band G.
As the premiums all go in a central fund that is used to pay out claims to any insurer, it splits the cost between affected homes, and in theory could even result in some people seeing their costs go down once the cap comes in.
Insurers have agreed to pay a levy into the fund equivalent to £10.50 a year on every home insurance policy, though it is important to remember that the cap only applies to the flood element of your insurance – meaning premiums could rise if other risk factors change.
One caveat is that the cap on flood premiums is not expected to come into force until the summer of next year, so in the meantime insurers will continue to abide by the Statement of Principles, which guarantees that insurers will continue to cover existing customers whose properties are not at 'significant risk' of flooding.
They will also continue to insure existing customers if the property is at significant risk, but only as long as the government has plans to reduce the flood risk within five years.
However, the Statement of Principles does not cover new customers, which could make it difficult for high-risk homes to switch insurers, and also excludes any property built after January 2009, which is intended to act as a disincentive for developers to build on potential flood plains.
What if the worst happens?
If the worst does happen and your property is flooded, it is vital to tell your insurance provider immediately and ensure that all relevant details such as the policy number are nearby, so the claim can be processed quicker.
The vast majority of insurers provide a 24-hour emergency helpline to call if your home is hit by flooding, while the Association of British Insurers (ABI) lists the contact details of nearly every insurer for easy reference.
It is also important to find out your entitlement, which may result in a loss adjuster visiting the property and identifying what repairs and replacements are needed and are covered by your policy, while you should also confirm whether the insurer will pay for any service or equipment required to clean the property.
As with any type of damage to property, it is also important to keep a record of it for insurance purposes, and so make a list of damage to both the structure and any belongings, including the height of the flood water, and take photographs and videos of all damaged property. Don't throw anything away.
Similarly, if your home insurance policy covers you for loss of perishable goods, list any food touched by floodwater and anything in the fridge or freezer that was ruined by a loss of power; these are the only items that should be thrown away.
Make a note of all the telephone calls you make to your insurer, including the name of the person you spoke to, the date and time of the call and anything that was agreed.
Finally, keep copies of all correspondence you send or receive from your insurer or any third parties, as well as receipts, to create an accurate paper trail and ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Though flooding is some people's worst nightmare, it is an unfortunate reality for others, which makes adequate preparation essential.
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