Ultimate escape of water guide
What does escape of water mean?
Escape of water refers to situations where water leaks into a building because a pipe bursts, an appliance leaks or there is a problem with your home’s plumbing. This is different to flooding, which is caused by external events such as a nearby river overflowing.
Escape of water claims are one of the most common types of Home Insurance claims in the UK, and they can cause significant damage. Leaked water can lead to damp and mould, and if the escape of water is excessive, it can even lead to structural damage.
Preventing escapes of water, and reacting quickly when they do occur, is therefore vital for limiting damage. By reducing the risk of water leaks in your home, you can help to avoid making an escape of water claim. This can help to keep down the cost of your Home Insurance and, in the long term, will help to prevent increases in the excess policyholders will pay for this type of claim.
To help you do this, we’ve put together a detailed guide covering the causes of an escape of water, prevention tips and what to do if a water leak does occur.
Escape of water: causes and prevention
Water leaks in your home can be caused by a number of things, but the following are some of the most common.
A broken or burst pipe is often behind an escape of water. Pipes can deteriorate over time, which may create cracks or breaks in the seals, allowing water to escape. Very cold weather can also cause pipes to burst if the water within them freezes as the temperature drops.
Of course, poorly done DIY can also lead to damaged pipes if you accidentally drill into one while carrying out redecoration or maintenance.
Read more: Pipe protection in winter.
A leaking appliance can soon lead to water spilling out in your home. Dripping taps and faulty washing machines, dishwashers and boilers can all be causes of escape of water. You should also look out for blocked toilets, damaged showers and overflowing baths.
Water leaks from neighbouring properties
Sometimes, it isn’t your appliances that cause the problem. A leak from a neighbouring property can also cause water damage to your home, particularly if you live in a flat.
Prevention tips for homeowners, landlords and tenants
Check your home
When it comes to prevention, regular inspection is absolutely key.
Carry out regular checks of your pipework to see if you can spot any damaged seals, cracks or signs of bulging. A build-up of moss or limescale around valves or joins can be indicators of deterioration and small water leaks.
You should also look out for signs of water damage on your walls and ceiling, as this could indicate a slow leak from a pipe in your roof or walls. The smell of damp or mould should also be investigated.
Keep an eye on your appliances too. If you notice water escaping from your washing machine, dishwasher, radiators or boiler, it needs to be investigated.
In your bathroom, make sure that the grouting, tiles and sealant around your shower and/or bath are intact and in good condition. It’s a good idea to check underneath your bath and sink from time to time to make sure the pipework underneath is still tightly sealed. A dripping tap should be fixed as soon as possible before it develops into a bigger problem.
Stay on top of maintenance
It can be hard to keep your home in tip-top condition, but carrying out the following will help to prevent escape of water claims.
To protect your home from burst pipes in winter, lag or insulate all exposed pipework and the pipes in your roof, particularly where there is a valve, joint or bend. Outdoor taps should also be insulated during the winter months to prevent freezing.
Heating your home is now very expensive, but it will help to protect your pipework over the winter, so make sure to turn it on every day. The Energy Saving Trust recommends that you keep your home heated to at least 18 degrees Celsius during the winter, so set your thermostat to this temperature. If you’re planning to leave your property empty, you will still need to heat your home to stop pipes from freezing. Programme your thermostat so that the heating clicks on twice a day and set the temperature to around 12 degrees Celsius.
Blocked drains and pipes can cause leaks, so avoid tipping substances such as cooking fat or oil down your kitchen sink. Instead, leave the fat to solidify before disposing of it in a sealed container in your bin or at a recycling point. In your bathroom, keep your sink, bath and shower drain clear and unblocked by regularly using a drain unblocker or a solution of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.
If your washing machine’s filter becomes full, this can also lead to a leak. For this reason, it’s a good idea to check it every month and remove any fluff that has built up inside. Your dishwasher’s filter can also become clogged, so check it regularly and use bicarbonate of soda to clear it out.
Know where your stopcock is
It’s vital that homeowners, landlords and tenants know where the stopcock is in the property. This means that water can be turned off quickly at the first sign of an escape of water, reducing the scale of any damage.
Stopcocks are usually found on the ground floor underneath the kitchen sink. However, if your home has been remodelled, it may be elsewhere. Some homes will have stopcocks for different sections of the property, but knowing the location of the main stopcock is most important.
Escape of Water Insurance
Your Buildings Insurance and Contents Insurance will both probably provide you with cover for escape of water claims. This is because water leaks can lead to damage to the interior and structure of your property. The policy you claim on will depend on what was damaged by the water leak.
Remember: escape of water is different to flooding, which is caused by an external cause such as a storm or flooded river.
If you have both Buildings and Contents Insurance (a combined Home Insurance policy) you should be covered for all resulting damage. However, there are exclusions to this cover.
- Wear and tear: You won’t be covered if the water leak was caused by general wear and tear to your pipework or appliances. Poor maintenance of these things may also mean that you cannot make a claim.
- Long periods of non-occupation: If you leave your property unoccupied for a long period of time, your Escape of Water Insurance may not be valid. Most policies set a maximum period of 60 days of non-occupation, after which your insurance will be invalidated. If you are intending to leave your property unoccupied for a longer period, get in touch with your insurer to see if your policy can be amended.
- Accidental damage: Not all Home Insurance policies will include accidental damage, such as that caused by you doing DIY. This means that your insurer won’t pay to have repairs made, although the policy would pay to cover the cost of any resultant damage. Speak to your insurer to find out if you have this cover if you’re unsure.
- Dripping taps: Dripping taps are a common exclusion when it comes to Escape of Water Insurance.
- Septic tanks and cesspits: Your Home Insurance policy probably won’t cover you for any escapes of water linked to septic tanks, cesspits or their associated fittings. Talk to your insurer if you’re unsure if you’re covered.
If you do need to make an escape of water claim, you will need to pay an excess.
Because these types of claims are very common, you can expect to pay anywhere between £250-£500 per claim. This is also because these claims tend to be very expensive. According to the ABI, the average cost of a claim for burst pipes is around £7,000.
How to make a successful water leak insurance claim in the UK
To make a successful escape of water claim, you need to take action quickly.
It’s very important that you get in touch with your insurer or broker straight away to make a first notification of loss. This will kick-start the claims process.
You should also document the incident. Take photos or videos of the full extent of the damage. If there is a lot of water in your property, it’s a good idea to mark the level of water using a pen.
When you first contact your insurer, they will probably provide you with next steps. This may include meeting with a loss adjuster to survey the damage or requesting you to provide quotes for repair and clean-up. If you have to have emergency repairs carried out or need to move into alternative accommodation, keep all invoices and receipts.
If you need to provide quotes, look up reputable companies to do the work and gain written estimates from them. You will then need to submit these quotes to your insurer. They may have preferred contractors or specific requirements, so check with your insurer before you search for quotes.
You should also draw up an accurate list of items that need to be replaced as a result of the damage. This should include estimates of their value.
Dealing with emergency water leaks
If the worst happens and you have a sudden water leak, you should do the following:
- As soon as you notice a leak, turn off the stopcock. This will help to limit the damage to your property.
- If the water leak has occurred near electric switches, appliances or sockets, it is a good idea to also turn off your mains electricity.
- Get in touch with your insurer as soon as possible. It’s very important with escape of water claims that your insurer is informed about the damage straight away. Most insurers have a 24-hour helpline for situations such as this.
- If the weather is dry, open up your windows and doors. This will help air to circulate and dry out some of the moisture in your home. Alternatively, keep them closed and set up dehumidifiers in the affected areas. You can rent industrial-sized ones if your water leak is significant.
- Remove any items you can from the affected area, including any damaged carpets. It could be that they can be dried out and salvaged.
- Use towels and a mop to remove excess water from the floor.
- If damage is extensive, you may have to call in a professional from a water damage restoration company.
Responsibilities of homeowners, landlords and tenants
As a homeowner, you are responsible for preventing a water leak. This includes keeping an eye on pipework, appliances and your shower, toilet, taps and sinks. You should also carry out regular maintenance to prevent pipework and appliances deteriorating.
If an escape of water does happen, it is also your responsibility to limit the damage and get in touch with your insurer or broker as soon as possible.
If you’re a landlord, it is your responsibility to promptly carry out any repairs to fix or prevent an escape of water. For instance, you may need to repair a broken pipe or correct faulty plumbing. You will also need to get in touch with your Landlord Insurance provider to report the damage. Make sure you document it all with photographs and videos.
As landlord, you will also be responsible for cleaning up the damage and drying out affected areas. If the property becomes inhabitable, you may need to arrange alternative accommodation for your tenants.
If mould or mildew arises in the property as a result of a water leak, you will be obligated to correct this issue too.
If you notice a water leak in your rental home, you will need to limit the damage quickly by turning off the stopcock and the mains electricity, if needed. You should then get in touch with your landlord as soon as possible. You should also get in touch with them if you notice a blockage or if any plumbing repairs are needed.
If you have Tenants Contents Insurance, you will need to contact your insurer and report the escape of water and the damage to your personal belongings. Take photos and videos of the damage and provide an accurate list of what has been affected to support your claim.
The right Home Insurance cover
Being proactive with maintenance and keeping a close eye on your home is the best way to reduce your risk of an escape of water.
However, sometimes the worst can still happen and you can experience a water leak in your property. In these cases, the most important thing is to act quickly and get in touch with your insurer and broker.
Having the right Home Insurance in place can also help in these stressful situations. At One Broker, we can help you to get the right cover so that you can be confident that you have the protection you need should you experience a water leak.
We also have a dedicated in-house Claims team who can work alongside you to get the best result for your escape of water claim.
To find out more or get a quote, give us a call on 01223 792290.
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