How to Know If You Live in a Flood Zone

Check your local council's flood maps

Knowing whether or not you're in a flood zone is the first step in preparing for a flood. Generally speaking, if you live in a low-lying area or nearby a river, lake, creek, or major stormwater drain, it's possible that your home is at risk of flooding.

The easiest way to check your flood risk is through your local council. Most councils have publicly available flood maps (which include historical data from previous flooding events along with flood risk modelling) and floodplain management reports online. If not, you can visit your local council in person or contact them via phone or email and request access to flood risk data.

The following state and territory governments also offer state and territory-level flood maps online:

Keep track of changes

With new construction and changes in topography, floodplains and flood zone designations can change over time. Make a plan to check for changes in your property's flood zone designation every five years or so.

Keeping an eye on your flood zone designation not only makes you better prepared for a possible flood, but it also ensures that you always have the right type and amount of flood insurance.

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Expert tip

Remembering to do something every five years isn't easy. If you think you'll have a hard time remembering, try to tie it to your milestone birthdays—whenever you reach an age that ends in a five or a zero, it's time to check your home's flood zone status.

Check live flood maps

If you live in an area with an elevated flood risk, it's always a good idea to monitor nearby rivers, creeks, and catchments during periods of heavy rainfall. This can be done pretty easily online through the Bureau of Meteorology website and Floods Near Me (New South Wales residents only).

It's also worth following your local state emergency services (SES) or territory emergency services (TES) branch on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social news platform you use regularly. This way, you'll get timely updates about nearby floods and potential evacuation orders.

Image: Screenshot from the Floods Near Me website.

How to prevent your home from flooding

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Floods aren't always caused by rainfall. Burst pipes and drain blockages can rear their ugly heads when you least suspect it. For these types of floods, one way to prevent them is using a water leak sensor, which notifies you of potential leaks.

These sensors detect leaks from appliances like your water heater and washing machine, and can also alert you to weather-related leaks in the garage or basement.

For floods caused by weather events, unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do to prevent your home from flooding if you live in an at-risk area. Sandbags can buy you some time and prevent some damage, but sometimes, the only thing you can do when facing a flood is to evacuate and move your belongings to higher ground (where possible).

Look into flood insurance

If you live in a flood zone, the next thing to do is find out if you have flood insurance. While floods are much more common than fires, not all home and contents policies cover flood damage as standard, instead offering it as an optional add-on. If you're unsure as to whether or not your insurer will cover your home and belongings in the event of a flood, check your policy's PDS or contact your provider directly.

FAQ

Disclosure obligations vary among states and territories, but in New South Wales, sellers are obligated to disclose if the land is located in a flood zone.

As for other states and territories, it's up to you as a buyer to find out the property's history—but keep in mind that even if you don't, your mortgage company will, and a flood zone designation could impact your ability to get financing.

You don't want any surprises when it's time to get a mortgage for your new home, so do the research before you make an offer.

Maybe—it depends on the property's flood zone classification and the mortgage lender. In Australia, risk-prone properties are classified by their Annual Expedient Probability (AEP), which determines the probable frequency of flooding in the area. Properties with 1% AEP might experience major flooding once in every 100 years, while those with 2% AEP might experience major flooding once in every 50 years.

For lower AEP properties, some banks may require you to have flood insurance in order for them to agree to financing. For properties with a higher AEP, banks may flat-out refuse to provide financing.

Floods are a rare occurrence, even for areas with high risk, like waterfront properties and coastal areas. A one percent chance of flooding means that your area is expected to get a devastating flood once every 100 years.

While that may not seem like a huge risk, it’s pretty high, considering the fact that an entire geographical area could be wiped out. A one percent risk should be taken seriously, especially since you don’t know where you are in that 100-year cycle.

Possibly, but having flood insurance on the property can help, because that way, potential buyers will know their options for insuring the home. You can also take proactive steps to protect your home against floods, like elevating it or taking other measures to make your home more flood-resistant.


Disclaimer
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time of publish and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the retailer’s website at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise Australia utilises paid affiliate links.
Georgia Dixon
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Georgia Dixon

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