Protecting your property from escaping water

What is escape of water?

‘Escape of Water’ occurs within your property for many reasons. Commonly it happens when pipes or water tanks burst due to the water inside freezing and therefore expanding. Other issues leading to water leaks include increased water pressure or faulty, blocked or eroded connections or simply poor workmanship. Although the warmer months are now upon us, harsh wintery spells can still happen in the UK. 

‘Escape of Water’ is the most common type of claims for insurers to deal with, and therefore an issue that cannot be ignored by Property Owners or Landlords alike. While other claims have declined in recent years, water damage claims have steadily increased over the past 15 years with insurers paying out a massive £930 million in water-related claims each year. (See Fig.13)1

Research from claims handling company Crawford & Co illustrates the range of issues around this common problem. Undoubtedly washing machine leaks and burst pipes are the biggest named causes of escaping water. Damage caused by leaking pipes can often go far beyond the initial burst, with property and possessions easily ruined, resulting in greater repair bills than initially expected. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) state that a claim relating to a burst pipe costs nearly £9,000 on average, with their members paying out approximately £2.5 million every day on escape of water claims.

Owning a property brings with it many responsibilities, not least maintenance, and repair necessities. Furthermore, if you are also a Landlord you have a duty of care and additional health & safety regulations you need to adhere to. So, here are some simple steps you can take to protect your property and your tenants.

What can you do to help avoid escape of water in your property?

Here are some steps you can take yourself or advise your tenants to undertake to help protect the interior and exterior of the property:

Interior

  • Keep the heating on low (minimum 6 degrees) if absent from home during the winter to avoid freezing pipes.
  • Check for cracked tiles, damaged or missing bath and shower sealant, and grout and replace if needed
  • Check for any visible signs of leaks, like damp patches or brown marks on ceilings, or signs of Verdi gris (green) around copper pipes
  • Do not leave taps unattended when water is running
  • Inspect hoses going to and from washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters and refrigerators. If any part seems damaged, repair or replace the affected parts
  • Regularly check overflows on toilets, sinks, baths and tanks
  • Regularly inspect and maintain the sealing around showers, sinks etc

Exterior

  • Get professionals in should you see any issues on the roof, and undertake any necessary repairs, such as mending or replacing missing, rotten, or damaged sections of the roof
  • Clogged gutters can overflow and allow water to pool near building foundations. Get a professional to inspect and clean out gutters as necessary
  • Good ventilation is still important, so do allow some air movement around windows and doors but avoid strong draughts. Insulation is important to help to control the temperature in the property and avoid potential freezing of pipes
  • Lag all external pipes well and the tank in your loft

What to do if water is already ‘leaking’?

Firstly, turn off/isolate the water supply to prevent further damage and depending on the how big the leak is, make sure whoever is present in the house is safe and away from any danger. When safe to do so, check and relocate any valuable possessions which could get damaged and remove objects in the path of the escaping water, plus anything electrical that can easily be moved. Multiple pressure points or blockages will make the water runoff in several directions, spreading the damage. If unable to stop the leak, direct it towards a place that prevents a pool of water building up, minimising any further damage.

Next call a plumber or an emergency service to get professional help to manage the leak and shut it off at the source. It's a professional’s job to be able to establish where the water is coming from and will be able to work towards getting this shut off. You can engage suitable qualified contractors to carry out any immediate emergency works. But, be aware that your insurers may not agree to pay for this work until they are happy with your claim.

Meanwhile, the insurer should be contacted, make sure the policy details are to hand. Document any damage that has been caused, photographs may be useful and keep hold of any evidence such as damaged fittings or ceiling plasterboard as this will be helpful in evidencing your claim, and will help get the claim dealt with as quickly as possible.

Once the water leak has been stopped, repairs may be required to make good any damage and repair the original cause.  Before you proceed with the work, get a quote for any repair work as the insurer might need this to settle the claim. Alternatively, the insurer themselves may organise for the relevant tradespeople to come out and repair any damage. Do not rush in and make impulsive decisions without considering the long-term implications and hence costs involved.

What type of water damage is covered by the insurer?

Landlords, homeowners and property owners can expect the escape of water insurance (also called a peril) to cover:  any material damage to the property/contents, and in the case of it being a business property, any resulting business interruption, where there is a sudden and unforeseen escape of water or oil from a fixed appliance or pipes.

This cover would normally exclude:

  • Loss or damage to unoccupied areas
  • Faulty workmanship
  • Chemicals or a chemical reaction
  • Loss or damage to the fixed appliance involved, or to the installation itself or if the installation is outdoors or in an outbuilding unless the installation is connected to a heating boiler

Make sure that your policy (check the policy wording) also covers tracing and accessing the actual source of the damage and for repairs subsequently required as a result of accessing that source. This is often an extension to your normal covers and it is important that the policy limit reflects any additional construction costs since accessing a pipe through hard wood or concreate flooring is expensive to replace.

Can’t use the property at all? If the water damage is so extensive it is no longer habitable or useable for business purposes, then a claim on our policies can be made for alternative accommodation from residential tenants or rental income for commercial units, until the property is fit for occupancy.

How can Stride Limited help in the cases of commercial property water damage?

With over 45 years of industry experience, Stride work with leading UK insurers to provide Landlords with comprehensive protection at a competitive price. Whether it be single or multiple properties that need protecting, Stride have the expertise to provide the optimum range of covers for those unforeseeable events that are outside of anyone’s control. Stride offer bespoke cover and specialist advice to ensure that your property has the best insurance cover to meet your needs, giving you peace of mind, no matter what life throws at you.

1 https://www.statista.com/statistics/320441/uk-domestic-claims-property-insurance/

2https://www.abi.org.uk/globalassets/files/publications/public/data/abi_bro6778_state_of_market_2019_web.pdf

3 https://www.hiscox.co.uk/sites/uk/files/documents/2021-02/Crawford-Data-Driven-Escape-of-Water-Dec-2020.pdf

Published: 19th April 2021 (Maddie-Dean)

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