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Flood-prone homes face premium rises

Homeowners in flood-prone areas face huge increases in the cost of insurance this summer.

The current agreement between government and the insurance industry to guarantee cover for properties at risk of flooding ends in June.

No end in sight

But this week, environment minister Owen Paterson admitted that ongoing talks between the two parties to redraft the agreement were unlikely to conclude before the summer.

If, as expected, legislation is needed to support any new scheme designed to ensure homes do not go without flood insurance, it could be 2014 by the time updated regulations come into force.

The current arrangement between the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Association of British Insurers means that providers are obliged to continue covering any existing customers without imposing large premium increases.

This is known as the Statement of Principles on the Provision of Flood Insurance.

Flood defences

However, the deal is in theory dependent on the government maintaining the country’s flood defences, which have been severely tested in recent years.

Paterson told MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that the Statement of Principles could be extended on a temporary basis while agreement was being sought.

But Simon Douglas at AA Insurance said that the statement did not put a cap on potential premium increases, and added that affordable insurance was what people needed.

"That won't happen unless and until a more robust system, which all homeowners are likely to have to contribute to, is in place," he said.

Nationwide levy

Parts of the insurance industry have proposed a levy of up to £15 on all buildings insurance policies, which will be used to create a fund to deal with flood emergencies.

However, this would require the state to act as a guarantor in the event that the fund does not have enough cash.

The coalition says however that if agreement cannot be reached, it may have to introduce legislation that will force insurers to provide affordable cover.

High policy excesses

Douglas said that once the Statement of Principles expired, cover would become either unaffordable or only available if customers agreed to high excesses.

"Already there are homes where the excess - that is the contribution the homeowner has to make towards a flood claim - is more than £10,000.

"I really feel for those who, through no fault of their own, are living in places that are becoming more prone to flooding."

Douglas added: "It's not as if there hasn't been plenty of time to come up with an answer, since the decision to end the Statement of Principles in June this year was taken five years ago."

Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris

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