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New neighbours - the old ones didn't disclose about flooding

(20 Posts)
FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 09:50:42

Obviously I've advised them to go back to their solicitors, but we were just wondering if anything could be done for them.

We live near a stream/river which is usually small, but takes water from the hills and can rise rapidly. Our own house is up a slope on the other side of the road. But the road itself, and a house that's across from us and down a bit, are lower. There really should never have been a house built on that piece of ground. It's been there about 14 years now.

The flat bit of road in front of that house floods to 4-5 inches depth a few times every year in heavy rain, as the gullies can't drain it away fast enough when the river is high. This is awkward to drive through but we're used to it and it tends to drain away again as fast as it rose. The Road Service is going to put in more drainage, although obviously the effect will be limited if the river is too high to drain into!

More seriously but only occasionally - once every 10 years or so - the river itself bursts its banks and rages dramatically down the road. I was always worried about what would happen to the house opposite when the river burst, and this did in fact happen 2 summers ago. All the stones on their gravel drive/yard were swept into heaps, their garage flooded, bark chippings everywhere, outbuildings damaged. They managed to protect their house with sandbags but it was nearly in there as well. Shortly after this incident, their house went on the market. We didn't know/like these people very well so didn't know the details. It took the house a year or so to sell (not unusually long in this area) and about a month ago they left and new neighbours moved in. We went over to say hello and found out it was an elderly couple.

Yesterday (they're only here a few weeks) there was one of the "normal" small road floods due to rapid snowmelt. I looked out the window and the old man was paddling about in it looking distressed and very unsteady on his feet. (It turns out he broke his hip 6 months ago and isn't fully recovered yet.) I went out to him and he was most upset, said he knew nothing of this, that they'd asked about the river when they were buying the house and been assured it was fine He was terrified that the road flood meant the river was about to come up. I was able to tell him that it (probably) didn't, but he was still distressed to hear that sometimes it did!

They'd called the flood line and a guy came out and was very surprised that they knew nothing. Apparently they were told that the "house has never flooded" which strictly speaking is true. I'm worried about them now because they are so elderly (mid-80s). That was just an ordinary road flood but if the river comes up there is no way that I will be able to help them. I went down and tried to cross over to the previous neighbours when the river came up 2 years ago but was nearly knocked off my feet. I feel so sorry for them as - even with the road flood - he was saying that now he was always going to be anxious.

If they go back to their solicitor, will they be able to get help? My mother is that age and I'd be horrified if she was in a place like that. Apparently their children live in Australia. This probably isn't my business but I'm very worried now.

Rooners Thu 13-Feb-14 10:41:33

You sound like a very good neighbour. I don't honestly know what comeback they may have but I would hope there would be some.

We're buying atm and it should be on the solicitors' searches whether there is a flooding risk - it would affect buildings insurance etc so has to be known.

I would advise them to go back to their legal people and demand to know what was looked into, and ask to see documents that state the flooding risk or lack of - don't let it lie. This is very unfair and I would be concerned for them too.

neepsandtatties Thu 13-Feb-14 10:44:03

When we purchased, we asked specific additional questions via our solicitor (has the house flooded, has the garden flooded, have outbuildings flooded, are you aware that the house has flooded any time before you owned the house) for the reason that the standard buyer's form, just asks 'has the property flooded' (which is open to interpretation). So I think it depends on what exactly was asked, and what response was given. Surprised it didn't come up on the searches too?

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 11:04:22

Thank you for that. In that case I imagine they must only have used the standard form, and the previous people chose to interpret "property" as "house". They did put a claim in to the Roads Service for the damage to their garden, so presumably there's a record of that. I will tell the new neighbours about that - am torn between meddling and being very worried for them. I really hope for their sake that they have some comeback as they've been left very vulnerable. Of course, any recourse they may have with solicitors, etc., isn't going to change the situation with the river sad.

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Thu 13-Feb-14 11:09:42

That's very strange. Flooding came up as standard in our searches, we didn't have to ask any extra questions, and it came from the environment agency I think, not the sellers. We had maps showing all the flooding in the area from the last 10 years or so I think.

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 11:16:16

Perhaps it's different in our area (not England, although they've moved here from England). It's a while since I bought/sold a house and I can't remember, but I'd have assumed it was a standard thing as well.

AngryFeet Thu 13-Feb-14 11:17:05

It will come up as standard but maybe they didn't look through the paperwork thoroughly?

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 11:19:25

Obviously we know about the river because we're local to this area, but the full length of their garden backs onto the river. They even have a little jetty thing. I'd have been all over the flood maps if I was looking at a house like that. Either they have been very naive or someone has let them down badly along the way.

neepsandtatties Thu 13-Feb-14 12:27:39

Property Information Forms (which sellers complete) usually, but not always include a question on flooding. The format and extent of the question varies between forms too - for example the latest Law Society one here asks some very specific questions, but the one our solicitor sent our sellers just asked the 'has the property flooded' (which is why we added supplementary questions).

Environmental searches are a separate part of the conveyancing process (done by your solicitor, and not connected to the sellers), and yes, it would be strange if they did not reveal flooding if it had been documented previously (and the house is so close to a river etc).

While i was googling property information form I found this link which you might find interesting:

Moral of story, get your solicitor to ask explicit questions regarding flooding (and disputes, and plannign history, and anything else you have suspicions about), if the property information form is lacking in detail, or you are not satisfied with the answers given.

ReallyTired Thu 13-Feb-14 12:33:52

Its up to people to do their own searches and organise a survey. They might have recourse to sue their own conveyancing solitors, but prehaps they did not read all the documentation.

If the house was built on the flood plain then will be built to withstand a certain level of low level flooding. My parent's house is raised off the ground and the river thames has never entered their house.

"Obviously we know about the river because we're local to this area, but the full length of their garden backs onto the river. They even have a little jetty thing. "

Then its naivity to think that the river won't flood.

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 12:43:29

Thank you for that. It's interesting that there is such a variation, but certainly what happened to the previous neighbours would have to have been stated on any form that asked the specific questions you linked to above. So either the form used by our new neighbours didn't ask those questions, or the previous neighbours didn't tell the truth. The person on MSE whose sellers seem to have actually lied on the explicitly-phrased form doesn't seem to be in a great position either as regards redress, although our neighbours are potentially affected by river flooding which may be different.

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 12:46:09

(Yes, there is the third possibility that they didn't read the documentation properly! The old man yesterday said he'd been told that the "house had never flooded", which is true but far from the whole story.)

ReallyTired Thu 13-Feb-14 12:50:10

If the house was a real nightmare for flooding then your neighbours would have found it impossible to get house insurance. There are properties near rivers that are completely unmortgageable.

My parents have horrendous house insurance premiums even though the Thames has not entered their garden since 1968.

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 13:00:00

Not sure at all about the insurance situation - I hadn't thought of that! No idea about mortgages, either, although at that age they're unlikely to have one (?). I know that for their garden repairs they definitely claimed compensation from (the River/Road Service?) so maybe that means they didn't tell their insurers about the flooding either. Although lots of insurers ask how close you are to a watercourse. I don't know enough detail so it's just speculation!

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 13:01:05

Sorry, there are two separate "theys" above! At that age our new neighbours probably wouldn't have a mortgage. It's our old neighbours who claimed compensation for the garden damage.

AwfulMaureen Thu 13-Feb-14 13:07:03

You are kind. Elderly people like to have plans in know what to do in certain situations and that all the means to sort things out are in place.

I would get some them for the couple and assure them that you have never seen their houses under water but if it DID then you would be there to sort out their sandbags...let them know and show them the bags...they're probably just feeling extra worried due to the news...let them know your mobile number maybe?

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 13:11:23

I'll do that, Maureen. This might reassure them with the road floods: although unfortunately if the river comes up raging like it did 2 years ago, I'd be physically unable to reach them. However, it hadn't happened before that for 15 years and the older locals said they'd never seen it so bad. So (climate change permitting!) we can maybe hope it will stay as rare as that. I'll also speak to our farmer neighbour who has tractors, etc. that could access their house at times when I couldn't. He also has elderly parents and would be sympathetic.

AwfulMaureen Thu 13-Feb-14 13:15:01

Poor old buggers...tell them "It's Spring soon!" with many a jolly smile...sometimes they need reminding of the good stuff. I look after elderly people sometimes and find that they like platitudes...little plans about the garden and things. I'm not being patronizing, I'm the bloody same! You can always comfort me with a cake and the promise of tulips soon out.

FiveOwls Thu 13-Feb-14 13:17:12

As it happens, I've just finished a batch of flapjacks smile They probably do need a bit of heart put back in them.

drivenfromdistraction Thu 13-Feb-14 13:25:11

Ah, that's nice FiveOwls. <want a flapjack!>

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