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Trace and access cover

What is trace and access insurance?

Mehdi Punjwani
Written by  Mehdi Punjwani
Kim Staples
Reviewed by  Kim Staples
5 min read
Updated: 26 Feb 2024

Trace and access cover is included in many home insurance policies and will pay out if you spot a hidden leak at your property

Finding the source of a water leak at your home can be complicated and expensive – especially if it’s underground.

Most – but not all – buildings insurance policies therefore include trace and access cover. This reimburses the costs involved in finding and getting to leaking pipes, and repairing the damage caused by all this.

What is trace and access cover?

Trace and access cover is a specific type of insurance often included on home insurance buildings policies. It provides peace of mind that if an emergency strikes and you need to call in a plumber to investigate the source of a leak, the cost of doing so will be covered by your policy.

Trace and access cover includes detection, which may involve technology such as thermal imaging, and getting to the source of the leak, which could involve ripping up your kitchen floor or removing your toilet. Trace and access cover does not include repairing the leak itself.

Detached house

What does trace and access insurance cover?

Trace and access cover is designed to pay for any work required to locate a leak at your home, as well as the work needed to repair any damage caused finding it. That’s why it’s called trace – locate the source, and access – make way for the necessary repairs to be done. If the source of the leak is obvious – for example a burst pipe – or you have a gas leak, you’ll usually have to make a claim under home emergency cover instead.

Trace and access cover does not include the cost of stopping the leak itself, or of repairing any damage to your home caused by the leak. So if you need to make a claim for this, it will be on your main home insurance policy. Water damage caused by leaks that are due to poor maintenance is unlikely to be covered, but even in this case trace and access cover should still reimburse you for the cost of finding the leak.

If your possessions, including furniture and appliances, have been damaged by the leak, these will be covered by home contents insurance.

Do all home insurance policies include trace and access cover?

No, not every home insurance policy offers trace and access cover – although it is included as standard on most buildings insurance policies. The amount you can claim via trace and access cover also varies widely. Some insurers cap it at around £5,000, while others offer unlimited cover.

As the cost of finding the source of a leak can be thousands of pounds, it’s therefore worth checking how much trace and access cover you get before taking out buildings insurance – as well as how much excess you’ll have to pay towards any claim.

What should I do if there’s a leak at my home?

It’s not always easy to spot a hidden leak, but once you do it’s vital to take action as quickly as possible. Signs you might have a hidden leak at your home include:

  • Higher water bills

  • A damp patch on the wall or ceiling

  • Reduced water pressure

  • Mould and mildew

  • Peeling paint or wallpaper

You’ll need an emergency plumber or specialist company to locate the source of the problem. But call your insurer first to see if it has a list of approved tradesmen – and to find out what evidence of the work undertaken you’ll need to provide when you make your trace and access claim.

The cost of leak detection will largely depend on how much work is required to locate the source of the leak at your property. If it’s easy to find, you may only face a bill of £100 or less. If it’s underground and requires major excavation, the cost could run to thousands of pounds. That’s why it’s a good idea to have trace and access insurance.

What might cause a leak in the home?

Leaks could be caused by a few things, such as:

  • Broken, burst, or frozen pipes

  • A broken water tank

  • A faulty boiler

  • A washing machine or dishwasher breakdown

  • Poorly connected pipes in sinks, baths, and showers

  • Leaking radiators and central heating systems

Are underground pipes included in trace and access cover?

If you notice a leak coming from pipes that run underneath your property, trace and access insurance will often help to cover the cost of identify the source of the leak. This is true of gas and sewage pipes, as well as underground water pipes. However, some insurers exclude pipes that run beneath your garden – rather than your house – so check this when choosing a home insurance policy.

You may also find the water company that owns the pipes will offer to repair the leak for free to meet its leak reduction target. Either way, it’s important to take action when you spot an underground leak on or near your property as, over time, excess and escaped water can cause bigger problems such as flooding and subsidence.

Who is responsible for water pipes between the road and the house?

According to Ofwat, the water regulator, responsibility of the pipe depends on exactly where it lies.

The pipes under the public roads and footpaths are the water company’s responsibility.

The personal supply pipes on your property, such as those under your driveway or garden, are the property owner’s responsibility.

Shared pipes that lie on your property – that’s pipes that supply water to both you and your neighbour(s) – are the joint responsibility of all the property owners whose homes are supplied by the pipe.

However, if any of those pipes are water mains pipes that just happen to be on your personal property, they’re the water company’s responsibility.

How can I make a trace and access insurance claim?

You should call your building insurance provider as soon as you spot signs of a leak at your home. It may have a list of emergency plumbers or leak detection companies for you to contact. Or it may simply tell you to contact a local plumbing service and keep a record of the work they do.

Whether the company is approved or not, it’s a good idea to take photos of the work where possible, and to make sure the workers only damage what is necessary to find the leak. If, for example, the leak is underneath your shower, but they rip out your bathtub too, you may find only the cost of replacing the shower is covered.

Can a trace and access claim be refused?

Yes – there are a few circumstances in which your insurance company may refuse a trace and access claim. It may be refused if:

  • There was an ingress of water rather than an escape of water: Trace and access only applies to ‘escape of water’ claims – meaning water has leaked from a closed system such as an appliance or pipes. They don’t apply to ‘ingress of water’, meaning water has come in from the outside – such as through doors, windows, or the roof.

  • No water damage has occurred: Trace and access claims are usually only covered if your home has suffered water damage that needs fixing.

  • The policy doesn’t cover water damage or the particular type of water damage that has occurred.

Compare trace and access cover

Finding and comparing home insurance that includes trace and access cover is easy with the MoneySuperMarket comparison tool. You can see whether or not trace and access cover comes as standard, and check how much cover you will get – all in just a few minutes.

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