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Insurance companies’ flooding cover comes under fire


‘WHAT ARE THE INSURANCE COMPANIES AT?’ Independent councillor Christy Hyland.

Anton McNulty

INSURANCE companies have been accused of holding up the sale of houses by not providing flood insurance cover for people willing to buy the houses.
The issue of insurance companies failing to insure houses for flooding in areas which are considered a flood risk was raised at two municipal district meetings last week. The companies were accused of being ‘too conservative’ in their interpretation of what it considers to be areas at risk of flooding and as a result are preventing the sale of houses from going through.
The matter was first raised at the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District last Monday where councillors agreed to adopt the Flood Relief Scheme at Carrowholly. While discussing the topic Cllr John O’Malley spoke of how a woman living Carrowholly could not sell her house because of insurance.
“She wants to sell her house, she lives on her own and has sold it twice but [the sale fell through because] the people who wanted to buy could not get insurance because she is in the flood plain. She is left in limbo,” said Cllr O’Malley, who asked for an embankment to be built around her property in order for her to get insurance.
Cllr Christy Hyland agreed and accused insurance companies of playing a ‘three-card trick’ with home owners.
“What are the insurance companies at? You pay them the risk but they still want the guarantee it won’t flood. It’s like giving insurance on the car but they want to guarantee you won’t crash and have any injuries. As far as I can see insurance companies are play three-card tricks with people,” he claimed.
Council engineer Tom McDonnell explained that the homeowner was part of the Flood Relief Scheme but the council could not put an embankment around the house because the cost would be enormous.
He added that even if the council did put an embankment around the house, there was no guarantee insurance would be given.
“We see what the insurance companies use and they are way more conservative than what the OPW [Office of Public Works] have. Anywhere there is a flood plain the insurance companies will use more conservative maps than the OPW so they will rule out insurance anyway. Us putting an embankment around her will not guarantee insurance. You will see the whole of Carrowholly will probably be non-insured for flooding because it is a flooded area,” he told the meeting.
At the Claremorris-Swinford Municipal District meeting, Swinford-based councillor Michael Smyth had a similar story and accused insurance companies of using CFRAM (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management) maps from the OPW website when they are not allowed to.
“They [insurance companies] are refusing to quote you because you are in a CFRAM flood zone indicated on the OPW website. They are not allowed to use it but they are. I propose we write to the Minister Eoghan Murphy to put on the record our concern at insurance companies using CFRAM maps to refuse to insurance for householders in flood zones,” he said.
Meanwhile, councillors adopted the Flood Relief Scheme at Carrowholly but expressed their concerns that it will not solve the problem of flooding. The scheme will involve the construction of 13 embankments to protect properties, one retaining wall and three individual property protections where households will be given flood barriers and non return valves to protect their homes from flooding.
Cllr O’Malley said that residents of the area have concerns that the construction of the embankments will force the tidal water to flood other areas but Mr McDonnell reassured him this would not happen.
Cllr Brendan Mulroy and Cllr Peter Flynn also said residents expressed their concerns that the scheme was not the final solution but hoped it will reduce flooding concerns they currently have.