Plans for 'flood risk' symbols on homes prove controversial

Three flood symbols Image copyright ABI

The insurance industry has published three "flood risk" symbols it would like estate agents in England and Wales to put on their property particulars.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is proposing traffic light symbols in red, amber and green, to warn buyers about the flood dangers.

But estate agents say such symbols would stop buyers even looking at a property, so would block sales.

Around one in six properties would be labelled as either amber or red.

The ABI says the symbols would prompt buyers to investigate flood risks properly.

It claims that at the moment, house-hunters are more likely to ask about parking provision than flooding.

Last December, as many as 16,000 homes in the north of England succumbed to flood waters, as a result of Storm Desmond and Storm Eva.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Storm Desmond led to the flooding of 16,000 homes


James Dalton, director of general insurance at the ABI, said: "As the floods of last winter reminded us, being flooded is horribly traumatic and can leave people out of their home or business for months.

"Anyone whose property is at flood risk needs to be aware of that, so they can take steps to protect themselves."

However, estate agents say they are unlikely to take up the idea.

They point out that, under the Consumer Protection Regulations, they are already obliged to tell buyers of any material concerns about a property, including the risk of flooding.

But having such prominent warning symbols would put most buyers off, they say.

"If you see a red, you wouldn't bother to look at it. You'd say, I'm not going to visit," said Mark Hayward, the managing director of the National Association of Estate Agents.

"It would be a pointless and fruitless exercise," said property expert Henry Pryor.

"You would make a huge proportion of homes unsalable and unmortgageable."

He said having just three symbols would also be an oversimplification of many different degrees of flood risk.

The ABI said that if estate agents did not take up the idea voluntarily, it might consider asking for legislation to make it compulsory.

Image copyright ABI
Image caption How the red warning would appear

The government appeared to offer qualified support for the idea of the flood risk symbols.

"It's important people understand flood risk, so they can make informed decisions about where they live," said a spokesperson from the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

"We're making more data and technology available than ever before through the Environment Agency's free Flood Warnings Service and our advanced flood mapping and forecasting."

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