Cover for thousands denied insurance due to flood risks

Households where OPW has invested in flood defences to be offered policies

Householders react to flooding earlier this year. Photograph: Patrick Browne

Householders react to flooding earlier this year. Photograph: Patrick Browne

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 00:51

Thousands of householders who have been denied insurance because of flood risk are set to be offered policies under a deal being worked out between insurers and the Office of Public Works (OPW)

The insurance industry under the umbrella body Insurance Ireland said its members would be happy to offer policies to homeowners before next winter in areas where the OPW had carried out permanent flood-protection measures.

The move is expected to place a question mark on the possible introduction of another insurance levy to cover flood risks, due to be considered by Government.

Speaking in Tullamore, Co Offaly, yesterday, Minister for State Brian Hayes said the Government was “going to have to look at that issue very closely”. The Minister for Finance had given a commitment to colleagues “to report to Government shortly ” on the levy issue.

However, Kevin Thompson, chief executive of Insurance Ireland, yesterday told The Irish Times the industry was “surprised and disappointed” by the prospect of a levy as agreement on an insurance deal was near.

Mr Thompson said Insurance Ireland had approached the OPW in 2012 on the issue and was invited to a meeting in January 2013. The industry had offered to restore insurance policies in areas where the OPW had invested in permanent flood defences if the industry could get information on the nature and location of the defences.

He said the OPW had responded “very positively”, and details of the first tranche of 12 flood-prevention measures were given to Insurance Ireland in October 2013. He said “three or four” of these were ruled out because they were “demountable” defences in that they were only put in place during flood warnings. The remaining schemes provided scope for underwriters to offer policies. These arrangements could provide a template for the offer of policies in other areas of OPW flood-relief schemes.

A spokeswoman for the OPW confirmed that agreement on such template schemes was close.