Does my home insurance cover burst water pipes?
Water damage from a leak or burst pipe is one of the most common reasons for home insurance claims, with insurers in the UK paying out almost £2million a day, according to the Association of British Insurers.
Thankfully many buildings insurance policies offer cover for water damage, also known as ‘escape of water’, as standard. But while your policy may cover the cost of repairing the leak and any damage caused, finding it – known as ‘trace and access’ – isn’t always included.
It’s not just structural damage to consider – if you have contents insurance, the policy should cover the cost of replacing personal items ruined by water damage.
You do need to properly maintain your home though, so take appropriate measures to prevent pipes freezing – if a slow leak causes damage that you should’ve known about and rectified, it could invalidate any claim.
Does my home insurance cover water damage if it’s my fault?
If your policy includes accidental damage, you may be covered for accidents such as an over-flowing bath or accidentally drilling into a pipe.
How can I prevent water pipes bursting and water damage to my home?
While not every accident can be avoided, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of a burst water pipe and plumbing leaks.
- Get a professional to plumb in any new appliances to be assured it is done correctly
- Ensure you know where the stopcocks are located and test them regularly, as they can seize up. If there’s a leak, turn off the stopcocks immediately to limit any damage
- Keep an eye out for cracks in shower trays, sinks and baths and leaks from any taps
- Check around appliances to see if pipes have worked loose or are dripping. Even if you have to remove panels to look underneath kitchen units, it’s worth checking
- Check the lagging is secure on pipes in your loft space and anywhere which could be liable to freezing
- Be mindful of what you put down the drain – fats and oils, baby wipes, sanitary products and even hair can all cause blockages
- Consider only using domestic appliances such as your washing machine and dishwasher when you are at home so if there is a leak you can quickly turn them off
- Make sure you know where any pipes are before you start drilling – a stud finder can help you locate them
- Use your water meter to check for leaks. Turn off the stopcock and note the meter reading – if it changes after an hour or two, it’s likely that there’s a leak somewhere
- Fit a leak detection device. They monitor your water usage and turn off the supply if a leak is suspected, and some insurers may even take this into account when pricing your cover. You’ll need a plumber to install one
- Additionally, if you’re away from home:
- Leave your heating on during a cold snap, even if it’s timed for just an hour a day. Alternatively, when leaving the property unoccupied for any length of time, shut down the water supply completely
- Consider opening your loft hatch if it’s cold. This allows warm air from other parts of the home to circulate and can help prevent pipes freezing
- Ask a friend to drop by while you are away. If you do suffer a burst pipe, it will then be detected as soon as possible, and the damage caused will be minimised
What causes water pipes to burst?
Freezing temperatures are the main culprit. They cause any water sitting in your pipes to expand and eventually cause a crack. When the ice melts, the water leaks.
High water pressure or a significant increase in water pressure with can also lead to a burst pipe and leaks, as can perished or poorly secured fittings.
What should I do if my water pipes are frozen?
Acting fast is key to prevent damage – turn off your stopcock and central heating and try thawing the pipes with a hot water bottle or hairdryer. Do not pour boiling water from the kettle over the pipes or they may crack.
Consider contacting an emergency plumber and call your insurance company. Most provide a 24-hour helpline.
What should I do if my house is flooded?
Turn off your water supply and mains electricity and then open your taps to drain the system. Then mop up as much excess water as you can and call your insurance provider.
They may send a loss adjuster to assess the damage and help arrange temporary accommodation for you if required. This may be covered in your buildings insurance, but check your policy to be sure.
Escape of water is not the same as flooding and insurers look at the two differently. Flooding is the term used to describe water in your home that comes from an external source such as a river bursting its banks or a mains supply springing a leak in the road.
Read our guide on how to safeguard your home from flooding.
What if the burst pipe is a mains water supply pipe?
If you are cut off, the water company must restore your supply within 12 hours or 48 hours if it’s a strategic main pipe.
It must also tell you where you can access an alternative water supply, when your supply will be back up and running and let you know who you can contact for more information.
If this doesn’t happen you may be entitled to compensation of £20 for the first 24 hours and £10 for every following day you’re without main water.
How can I make sure I have adequate home insurance for water damage to my home?
Here are a few of the things you should check:
- If your home is covered for the full rebuild cost. You can calculate how much it would cost to rebuild your home either by hiring a chartered surveyor, or by using our home insurance calculator to get an estimate
- If you’re covered for alternative accommodation should you need to move out while repairs are being made
- If you’re covered for the cost of repairing or replacing burst pipes as well as any damage the leak might cause
- Your excess. Claims for escape of water can carry an additional compulsory excess
You may also want to consider ‘track and access insurance’ cover – this will pay for the cost of finding the source of the leak.
How do I claim on my home insurance policy for a burst pipe or water leak?
After turning off your stopcock, contact your insurer – they usually have helplines that are open 24 hours a day.
They may arrange for a loss adjuster to assess the damage in detail, and in extreme cases arrange alternative accommodation for you.
Your loss adjuster should get in contact within 24 hours, but this might take longer if there are a large volume of claims due to temperatures plummeting.
The loss adjuster will give you an initial assessment and provide an approximate timetable of what needs to be done, who will do it and how long it will take.
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