Don't let burst pipes, blocked drains or flash floods cost you a fortune. Check that your home insurance covers you for water damage.
The rising tide of water damage claims
With 85 per cent of UK households using gas central heating to heat their homes and changing weather patterns causing more flooding, there's a possibility that more of us may be affected by water damage to our homes in the future.
Although flooding grabs the headlines, it's actually burst and leaking pipes that cause the biggest headaches.
The cost and inconvenience caused by a burst pipe can be considerable. Just a small rupture can release gallons of water, damaging plaster, carpets and other contents. And if that isn’t bad enough, ABI data shows that during a spell of freezing weather, a claim to repair a burst pipe can rise to around £7,500.
Following the Beast from the East in 2018, £194 million was paid by insurers to help homeowners cope with the misery of burst pipes.
Types of water damage
For insurance purposes there are two general types of water damage.
- Flooding. This covers flooding from rivers and sea, a rising water table and flash floods from storms.
- Escape of water. This usually refers to flooding that happens when a pipe or drain is blocked, a pipe has burst or an appliance has leaked.
Insurance companies will cover you against both types of water damage, but not if the cause of the damage is due to poor maintenance or lack of precautions.
Insuring your home against water damage
Whether your home is damaged as a result of coastal flooding or a frozen water pipe, you can take out home insurance to cover you against most problems. You should check your insurance covers both the damage to the building and the contents of your home. You can also take out emergency cover in case your plumbing springs a leak.
Buildings insurance will cover you for any water damage to the structure of your property, the walls and permanent fixtures such as kitchen cabinets.
Contents insurance covers you for any soft furnishings that get ruined, for replacing your water damaged living room, your television, computer and any valuables lost in the flood. It also pays to replace carpets.
If there's a leak, most insurers pay for the cost of removing and replacing the structure of your home to find the source of the leak. This is called trace and access cover.
And if you have additional emergency cover, you can call someone out to fix the problem any time of the day or night.
Ways to stop water damage
No one wants to be faced with cleaning up after water damage, so the best thing to do is prevent it from happening in the first place.
Protect your pipes
Burst water pipes are one of the major causes of water damage to homes. The number of claims for burst pipes skyrockets after a cold spell. That's because the water in the pipe freezes and splits the pipe causing a leak. A few simple safeguards can help prevent this happening:
- Lag pipes and insulate water tanks.
- Keep the heating on low if you're away from home during the winter.
- Make sure you know where your stopcock is and you can turn it off if you need to.
- Eliminate draughts from doors and windows that could reduce the temperature in the house.
- If your water tank is in the loft, open your loft hatch to circulate warm air up there.
If you know your home is at risk of flooding, many insurers will expect you to take some precautions. These can include:
- Sign up for flood warnings. You'll be contacted by text or email if you need to take precautions.
- Invest in flood guards. You can buy water barriers, airbrick covers and sandbags that reduce the amount of water that gets into your property.
- Keep your drains clear so that the water can run away.
- Move your possessions upstairs. This stops your household goods from getting ruined by rising water levels.
- Switch off gas, electric and water supplies.
- Keep important and costly documents like your passport or house deeds in waterproof bags.
How do I know if I'm at risk of flooding?
If you are in a flood risk area, it's very important that you tell your insurer. If you don't tell them and you make a claim for water damage, they may reject your claim.
Insurers won't automatically choose not to insure you if you live in a flood risk area. They'll assess the risk of flooding and adjust your premiums accordingly.
What to do if you're flooded
We know it's a stressful time when floods or storms damage your property. Take a look at our guide about what to do if you need to make a claim.
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