This article analyses the relationship between vulnerable households and local authorities during floods using the concept of linking social capital. The analysis combines a narrow operationalisation that measures the stock of linking social capital in vulnerable communities, with a broader operationalisation that seeks to address the nature of linking social capital. The empirical data, collected across four provinces in Central and North Vietnam, suggests that while a substantial stock of social linking capital exists in the vulnerable communities concerned, the nature of the relationship between the communities and local authorities during floods is characterised by top-down linkages and limited community autonomy. These linkages appear to be susceptible to social inertia during times of stress. They also undermine the development and reproduction of strong bonding and bridging social capital.