Flood map information could bring about cheaper insurance premiums
Insurance premiums could fall sharply due to the revised flood maps and the creation of a not-for-profit scheme supported by the big companies.
Northern Ireland's updated maps provide a more comprehensive picture of 69 areas that are likely to flood, allowing business and householders to see the risks they may face during flood events.
Insurers could theoretically use the information to assess a property's likelihood of being flooded and increase premiums but, conversely, properties previously considered at risk could see the cost of their policies fall significantly.
Premium prices could also drop due to the new so-called 'Flood Re' fund – as agreed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the UK Government – to guarantee that flood insurance remains affordable and available to homeowners at high flood risk.
Official figures from the Rivers Agency show that 46,000 properties here are at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea, with some currently benefiting from flood alleviation measures such as flood walls, culverts or coastal sea defences.
However, 23,000 of those have no protection in place, according to the agency's director of development, David Porter. "That's one in 21 properties here compared to one in six and England and Wales, so our risk is significantly lower," Mr Porter said.
But the ABI's Malcolm Tarling pointed to "several well-publicised flooding events in Northern Ireland" recently, warning there was no room for complacency.
"The one in 21 figure refers to properties of known flood risk, but don't forget flash flooding is much more prevalent now," he said. "You don't have to live near a river or the coast to be at risk of flooding."
"In Northern Ireland, severe flooding is becoming more commonplace and we're concerned that, without some form of agreement, a sizeable number of properties could find themselves uninsurable for flooding. That could have severe implications for their security because it could put their mortgage at risk."
Mr Tarling said this is the reason why the new Flood Re scheme, due to become operational next year, has been established.
"Insurers will be able to to transfer the premium they receive for the flood risk part of home insurance policies to Flood Re – and, in return, Flood Re will reimburse insurers for flood claims that they pay to their customers," he said.
"The levy works out at around £10.50 per household but this has already been incorporated into the cost of insurance policies so premiums won't go up automatically. Indeed, some may actually go down because the flood risk part of the household premium will be capped."