The last decade has seen reports of abnormally severe weather resulting in floods throughout the UK and 2009 was no exception. In February 2009 almost a month’s rainfall was recorded in 24 hours in parts of southern England, south Wales and the Midlands, prompting the Environment Agency to put in place some 100 flood warnings. During November 2009 severe weather and floods hit Cumbria with parts of the north west recording over a foot of rain in 24 hours, the wettest November day on record.

The perceived risk of flooding and the availability and cost of flood insurance are increasingly issues for property owners and occupiers. Below are two recent developments which could lead to far greater flood risk awareness and transparency for property transactions.

Flood Risk Regulations 2009

The Flood Risk Regulations 2009 came into force on 10 December 2009. The Regulations create the concept of ‘lead local flood authorities’ and impose obligations on such authorities to prepare preliminary assessments, identify flood risk areas, prepare flood hazard and risk maps and flood risk management plans in relation to the authority’s area.

In carrying out their duties the authorities are under a duty to co-operate with each other and the Environment Agency and to comply with any requests for data made by the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency is to oversee the preparation of documents by the authorities and has the right to recommend variations. Depending on the speed and completeness of implementation, the increased availability and accuracy of data will mean that flood risk becomes a standard part of the due diligence process for property transactions.

Land Registry flood risk indicator

The Land Registry has launched a Flood Risk Indicator as a new service on its website. The Indicator uses Environment Agency flood data and the Land Registry’s own property register to enable property searches to show flood risk information. It gives a written result without plans which describes the risk of flooding.

The Indicator relates only to predicted risks for the general given area and does not account for specific properties. The service comes with a fairly broad disclaimer which, amongst other things, states that data may not be accurate, that more detailed searches may be required and that the purpose of the Flood Risk Indicator is only to increase awareness.

Given its limitations the Indicator is perceived as an option for due diligence on low value conveyancing transactions but not suitable for commercial or high value transactions. The Flood Risk Indicator can be found within the Land Registry's “Find a property” service on its website and is available at a cost of £6.50. As data improves this may become a mainstream part of commercial property transactions in the next few years.