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Re-entering your home and cleaning-up after a flood

This advice applies to Scotland

If you have insurance, phone your insurer’s emergency helpline for advice before you re-enter your home or begin the clean-up process. See Making an insurance claim for flood damage

This page provides information and advice for homeowners, including landlords, on the steps to take when re-entering the home after a flood. Tenants will need permission from their landlord to undertake any repairs. 

Re-entering your home

You may only be allowed to re-enter once the emergency services say it is safe to do so. Don’t put yourself or others at risk by re-entering the property before it is made safe.

Don’t turn electricity and gas back on until they have been checked by a qualified expert. If you smell gas, or are worried about gas safety, you should phone the national gas emergency number on 0800 111 999. 

Electrical and gas safety are particularly important after a flood as there is a risk of electrocution or of a gas leak. You should not re-enter the home if the electricity has not been turned off at the fuse box. You should phone your electricity supplier’s emergency number as soon as possible to arrange a visit to check the fuse box and meter are safe. For more information, see the Electrical Safety First website at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk.

If water remains in your property, the fire service may be able to pump water from the property using high volume pumps. However, the first priority for the fire service is responding to incidents of fire, and they will have to stop to respond if a fire is in progress. For contact details of your local fire brigade, see the Scottish fire and rescue service website at www.firescotland.gov.uk. You can also hire pumps yourself, but you may need a permit to pump water into rivers or sewers.

Older properties that have been constructed with certain building materials may become contaminated with anthrax or other dangerous pollutants when they are flooded. Even if you do have an upstairs, the fire brigade may say that it is not safe for you to continue to stay in the property. 

If you are not able to safely stay in your home, you should discuss alternative accommodation with your insurance company. See Making an insurance claim for flood damage. If you do not have insurance, you should contact your local authority. See If you have been flooded but have no insurance.

Securing your home

Your windows, doors and/or garden gates may have been damaged during the flood or if emergency services needed to gain access. One of the first things to do is to make sure your home is secure for your own safety and to prevent theft. This is particularly important if you intend to stay in the property while it is being repaired.

If you have insurance, your policy should cover the repair of windows and doors. It may or may not cover the costs of repairing gates in driveways or gardens. You may be able to install temporary measures until your insurance company organises for permanent repairs. You should photograph the damage before you begin any repairs and keep receipts for any building materials you purchase, as your insurance company may refund you these costs.

If you do not have insurance, a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund may cover the cost of making your home secure. See If you have been flooded but have no insurance.

Cleaning-up after a flood

Take photographs of damage and check with your insurance company before you begin the clean-up process. 

Your insurance company will probably organise for specialist cleaners to clean the property and throw-out contaminated items. Soft furnishings and other items that cannot be disinfected will be disposed of. You may want to oversee this process to ensure that salvageable items such as hard wood furniture are not disposed of.

If you are cleaning-up yourself, for example because you do not have insurance, you can contact the Scottish Flood Forum helpline for advice on 01698 839021 or see further information on their website at www.scottishfloodforum.org.

Floodline also provides a clean-up checklist, available at www.floodlinescotland.org.uk .

Your local authority may provide skips or waste collection if a number of properties are affected.

Drying the property out

The property will need to be dried-out to prevent damp and mould setting in. Your insurance company will likely organise dehumidifiers, but check to see whether they will refund the electricity running costs. You should take an electricity meter reading before the dehumidifiers are run.

If you don’t have insurance, it is possible to hire dehumidifiers privately, but this can be expensive. You may be able to get the costs of drying-out and repairs from a crisis grant or a dedicated hardship fund.  

Some types of cavity wall insulation retain water and do not drain or dry out. They must be removed, or they may cause permanent damp. The Scottish Flood Forum will be able to advise you about this either over the phone or in a home visit. 

Sewage flooding

If your home and/or garden have been flooded with sewage, they will be contaminated with bacteria. Don’t handle any of your belongings without protective gloves and clothing. You should call Scottish Water to request that they come and disinfect the property. You can call them on 0800 0778778 at any time of day.

For more information on Scottish Water’s clean-up process, see their Sewer Flooding Guide at www.scottishwater.co.uk.

There are also health precautions you should take when you have been flooded by sewage water. For more information, see Practical steps and staying safe when you are flooded.

Next steps

See Making an insurance claim for flood damage or If you have been flooded but have no insurance.

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