Your guide to making a flood insurance claim
Cornwall continued to bear the brunt of the poor weather over the weekend, with 250 properties in the region affected by flooding and around 150 people evacuated.
Muddy water surged through Newlyn, Mevagissey, Lostwithiel, Polperro and Millbrook, while in Exeter a 21-year-old woman was said to have been killed "instantaneously" when a tree growing in the grounds of an empty ex-council building crashed down on a tent in which she was sleeping.
For residents hit by flooding or those braced for the worst, knowing how to make an insurance claim should be a top priority. Find out who to call, what to ask and what to do next with our flood insurance claim guide:
My home has flooded – what do I do now?
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- If you own your own home contact your insurance company straight away. Many have emergency contact centres working 24 hours a day.
Note: you may have one insurance policy to cover damage to the structure of your home, like walls, ceilings and floors, and another to cover its contents. If you have policies with two different insurance companies, you should phone them both.
- If you live in rented accommodation contact your landlord to make sure they have contacted the company that insures your home.
You’ll need to contact your insurance company if you have contents insurance.
What questions should I ask my insurer?
- If flooding has caused damage to large parts of the country, you may have to wait for a loss adjuster to visit you. Ask how long it will be before the loss adjuster visits to survey the damage.
Note: immediate emergency pumping and repair work to protect the property from further damage can be undertaken without insurer approval, but remember to get receipts.
- Ask if you are to clean your property or if they will get a company to do it for you. Check whether they’ll pay for redecorating also.
- Ask if they will help pay for repairs that will reduce potential flood damage and therefore reduce the costs if it happens again.
- Ask who will be your contact for your insurance claim at the company.
- Be sure to mark the water levels on the walls for reference using a permanent ink pen, and photograph or video all flood damage.
- List the damage to your property and belongings.
- If your insurance policy covers you for loss of perishable goods, make a list of all the foods you throw away. Include any food touched by flood water and anything in your fridge or freezer ruined by loss of power.
- Keep a record of all correspondence with insurers after the flood. Make a note of all telephone calls: record the date, the name of the person you spoke to and what was agreed, and keep copies of all letters, emails and faxes you send and receive. Keep receipts too.
- Don’t rush to throw away damaged items - unless they are a danger to health - as these may be able to be repaired or restored. Your insurer will advise.
What if I need to organise emergency repairs?
- You can arrange for emergency repairs to be carried out to stop any damage getting worse. However, you must keep receipts, as these will be needed for your insurance claim. You should also tell your insurer about the emergency repairs.
Get advice where detailed, lengthy repairs are needed. Beware bogus tradesmen and always check references.
Your insurer can give advice on reputable tradesmen, or you can check out Which? Local for recommendations.
It may be worth using a builder recommended by your insurer from their “approved list”. As the standard of work from an approved builder will have been monitored, it will be acceptable to your insurer.
And if any problems do arise it will be easier for you to deal with these with the help of your insurer.
- Keep all receipts of any emergency repair work you have done, like fixing electric fittings, so you can claim back the money. Also keep a detailed record of phone calls to anyone cleaning or repairing your home.
How do I organise alternative accommodation?
- If you need to move out of your home while it is being repaired, check with your insurers - most policies will cover the cost of alternative accommodation up to a specified limit.
- Ask your insurance company or landlord if they will provide you with temporary accommodation, such as a nearby bed and breakfast or a rented house.
You don’t have to accept the first place you are offered, but if flooding has affected many people, the choice of accommodation may be limited.
- If you are out of your home for only a short period, ‘reasonable costs’ in respect of hotel accommodation are usually acceptable. Such costs will usually be reimbursed as soon as it is practical.
However, if you require long-term accommodation, the loss adjuster may locate a property. Some insurers may arrange to pay these bills directly.
- Make sure your family, neighbours and insurance company knows where to contact you if you have to move out of your home.
- Consider what valuables and essential items you may be able to take with you.
- Lock your doors and windows if possible.
- Take emergency contact details with you, including mobile phone numbers and email addresses.
I don’t know the name of my insurance company – what should I do?
Speak to your broker, insurance adviser, mortgage lender or bank - direct debit/standing order payments can be used by them to identify your insurer - who may be able to provide details.
If you’re in rented accommodation, speak to your landlord or local authority.
Help - I know the name of my insurance company but I can’t find my policy
Call directory enquiries or look on the internet for your insurer. When you call your insurer, give them as many details as you can.
They are likely to be able to find your policy details from your personal information and your postcode.
I want to make a complaint
If you have a complaint about the way your claim is being handled by your insurance company and/or loss adjuster you should telephone or write to your insurer, keeping a note of what you have said. Your policy will contain details of your insurer's full complaints procedure.
If the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service, who will investigate the complaint within their terms of reference.
If you have a complaint about the builder appointed by your insurance company to undertake repair work, call the claims department of your insurer as soon as possible.
Keep a note of what the problems are. If they are not resolved to your satisfaction, write to the claims manager of your insurance company.
I don’t have insurance – what help is available?
If you don’t have insurance, your local council should be able to provide information on hardship grants or charities that may be able to help you.
Who can I contact for help and advice?
For insurance advice: Association of British Insurers www.abi.org.uk Tel 020 7600 3333
For information about loss adjusters: The Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters www.cila.co.uk Tel 020 7216 7580 – loss adjusters should be members
Dependant on the property contract, you or another party may be responsible for repairs and/or re-accommodation . You should consult your contract. The Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to advise www.citizensadvice.org.uk Tel 08444 111 444
For flood warnings and information on flood defences: Environment Agency Floodline www.environment-agency.gov.uk Tel 0845 988 1188 (open 24hrs)