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Help, I’ve got a leak!

This is the time of year when, as the cold weather hits, we crank up the boiler and water leaks can make an unwelcome appearance. So if your plumbing springs a leak, what do you do? Are you covered by your household insurance?

Don’t panic – leaking pipes are one of the most common claims on household insurance policies. They will cover you for water damage if the cause was what is called an insured peril* – typically a flood, or water escaping from a tank or a pipe.

So what should you do if you discover a leak? The first thing you need to do is to stop the supply of water to whatever is leaking in order to prevent any further damage. You should be able to do this yourself, even before the plumber arrives. The faster, the better, because unchecked, water can cause substantial damage. The main water cut off valve is normally located close to the water meter (if you have one), or under a sink near where the mains water enters your property. Many individual items, such as toilets and sinks, also have their own cut-off valves. It is well worth acquainting yourself as to where these are. If you’re not sure, just ask your plumber the next time he comes around.

Once you have the situation under control you should advise your insurers/brokers of the loss as soon as possible. You can normally find their contact details on the back of the policy. You should also take a note of your policy number, as you will almost certainly need it. Some insurers will recommend their own repairers. Others will allow you to use a local company, in which case you’ll need to get two estimates for repairs, split between labour and material costs. Either way, you should take plenty of photos of the damage, as the more information you provide to the insurers, the quicker the claim is likely to be processed.

So what, exactly, can you claim for? You will be covered for the damage to the building and contents, but probably not for the repair of the pipe or item that caused the leak. Quite a few policies also have trace and access cover to find the source of a leak, which is important because it can a time consuming and expensive problem to deal with. For example, if you have an underground water leak, the only visible evidence may be a drop in boiler pressure. Fixing it could involve hiring leak detection specialists with sophisticated audio and thermal technology equipment, which can cost as much as £1,200 a day. The very best policies not only cover this, but also the remedial work involved, as if you have to pull up floors and make good afterwards, it can add substantially to the cost and disruption. Some policies cover the water pipes outside your building. Others will not cover you if the property was unoccupied for any length of time.

One thing is certain – you will not be able to claim for anything if the damage was the result of your own negligence or poor maintenance. It means it’s very important that you make sure you have the right cover for you and your needs before you take out your policy. There’s no need to torture yourself with the prospect of wading through pages and pages of small print, just ask your broker/insurer. It’ll only take a few seconds and could save you an awful lot of money and heartache at a later date.

So how long will it take before you receive your payout? It is difficult to put a time frame on the settlement process, as it will depend on the size and complexity of the claim and whether a loss adjuster is required. If you are not happy with your offer when it arrives, you can always take your case to the insurance ombudsman.

Anyone wanting to cover the cost of repairing plumbing items, boilers and pipes, should talk to suppliers like British Gas, who can provide specialist cover. But, as always, prevention is the best cure – get your boiler regularly serviced, lag those exposed pipes before it gets too cold and make sure your grout and sealants in the bathroom are in good condition. Never, ever, ignore minor leaks – over time they can cause an awful lot of damage.

Below is a list of some of the most common sources of leaks:

  • Boilers
  • Toilets
  • Overflows
  • Radiators
  • Washing machines
  • Dishwashers
  • Taps
  • Pump valves
  • Baths – particularly grouting and caulking
  • Showers and shower hoses
  • Stoptaps
  • And sinks

*Insured Peril: The definition can differ from policy to policy, however the following relates to an insured peril – fire, lighting, explosion, aircraft and other aerial devices or articles dropped from them, riot, civil commotion, strikers, locked out workers, persons taking part in labour disturbances, malicious persons, theft, earth quake, storm, flood, escape of water from any tank, apparatus or pipe, leakage of oil from any fixed heating installation or impact by any road vehicle or animal.

Article by Oliver Wharmby

Oliver works for Lonsdale Insurance Brokers Limited

If you need any help with your insurance, you can contact him on +44 (0) 203 7133 860 or at www.lonsdaleib.com


This article was originally published November, 2015 on Tates property magazine https://www.property-ezine.com/buying.aspx?agent=tateslondon&edition=64

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