Flooding payouts broke £1bn in 2012, says ABI

Image caption Last year was the second wettest on record in the UK, Met Office figures show

Insurers paid out £1.19bn for flood and storm damage in the UK in 2012 - the highest annual figure for five years, an insurance trade body has said.

Some 486,000 claims were made by homeowners, businesses and motorists, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The average payout for flood-damaged properties was £18,200, the ABI said.

Last year was the second wettest on record in the UK, according to figures from the Met Office.

The total rainfall for the UK during 2012 was 1,330.7mm (52.4in), just 6.6mm short of the record set in 2000.

However, it was the wettest on record in England and Wales.

Claim levels

The ABI, which represents 90% of the UK's insurance industry, said that flooding struck a number of times during the year.

The total payout was slightly higher than in the year 2000, but was still dwarfed by the £3bn bill from the floods that had such a serious impact on the country in 2007.

The insurance industry faced considerable criticism for its response to those floods, and insurers now often put teams in place in areas that are hit by storms or flooding.

The 1987 hurricane and the storms of 1990 also cost insurers more than last year.

In 2012, insurers received 411,300 claims totalling £690m for damage to homes as a result of floods and storms, the ABI said.

Commercial property accounted for considerably fewer claims, just 47,000, but the value of those claims amounted to £373m.

Insurers handled 26,800 claims for vehicles damaged by the extreme weather, paying out £84m, and 1,200 claims for interruption to business operations, costing them £40m, the ABI said.

"Insurers expect bad weather to strike anytime, anywhere and last year highlighted the vital role insurance plays in helping communities recover from our increasingly volatile weather," said Nick Starling, the ABI's director of general insurance.

Cover 'at risk'

The ABI has been in talks with the government for months searching for a deal to avoid 200,000 homes being left without flood cover.

Many thousands more householders could see premiums rise if no deal emerges.

An existing agreement, reached in 2008, obliges insurers to provide cover for high-risk properties while the government continues to improve flood defences. This arrangement comes to an end in June.

The ABI wants the government to share the financial risk for the areas with the most homes at significant flood risk - defined as a greater than one in 75 chance of flooding in any given year.

The government said it was determined to come up with an affordable solution that did not put an unjustifiable burden on the taxpayer.

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