We talked to an LV= home insurance underwriter about how you should react if something in your home has sprung a leak, and how your home insurance provider might be able to help.
And fear not; you’re not alone. In fact, England and Wales lost 3.1 billion litres of water every day in 2017 from leaking pipework, according to the Consumer Council for Water.
Usually, the first signs of a leak in your home are a sudden loss of water pressure, mysterious puddles or damp patches appearing on a floor, wall or ceiling. Often, however, the effects of a leak can suddenly show themselves as a bulge in the ceiling or a flood. When this happens, reacting quickly can help prevent further damage.
The LV= underwriter recommends taking the following three steps:
1. First, locate your stopcock and turn off the water. This will prevent water coming into your home and causing more damage.
2. Run your taps to rid your system of all water.
3. Call your insurer and tell them exactly what’s happened and where the leak has come from, e.g. the water tank in the loft, an upstairs bathroom or under the sink.
‘If it’s safe to do so, try to soak up any water with towels and move any precious items or furniture out of harm’s way, you don’t want the bulging ceiling to burst over your lovely sofa!’
Contact your insurer – most insurers have a service available 24/7 to help you.
‘Even if it’s late at night or the weekend, we’re still here to help, LV=’s claims line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so someone will be there to help and give you advice on what to do and how to minimise any damage.'
‘If for some reason you can’t get through to us, follow the tips above, then try to get in touch with us ASAP, or with a plumber – but be sure to keep all receipts and invoices.’
If there’s no obvious sign of a leak, but you suspect there is one, it’s still wise to do something about it.
One way to find out if you have a leak is by checking the water meter in your home. To do this, make a note of the number on the meter display and then turn off your home’s water supply. Wait for at least half an hour and then check the meter again. If the number on the display has changed, this could indicate a leak. At that point, it’s time to call your insurer, water supplier or a plumber.
‘Even if your leak is a slow drip, you shouldn’t ignore it; slow drips can lead to much bigger problems such as rotten joists and blown ceilings.’
Although it’s often difficult to access and assess your plumbing and central heating, regular services can help you avoid leaks in the future.
‘Make sure your home is kept in good condition – nothing lasts forever so maintaining your home is key,’.
‘If there is cold weather on the way, you can prevent your pipes freezing and bursting by keeping your home’s heating on low even when you’re out,’ she continues. ‘You can also lag your pipes (add insulation to them) to prevent them freezing and bursting.’
There’s also some great tech that can help you monitor your home’s pipes. For example, installing a water leak detector will give you an early warning of any leak. Some, such as Samsung’s SmartThings device, can connect to your smartphone so you can get notifications on the move.
Depending on what’s caused the leak, your insurer can help in a number of ways – including covering the cost of repairs.
‘If you have home insurance with us, LV= will cover pretty much all aspects of your claim if there has been a leak, depending on what’s caused it.'
‘LV= will also provide dehumidifiers and pay for any increase in your bills while we’re carrying out work in your home.’
Of course, there are some situations when you may not be covered, if your leak is caused by ‘wear and tear’, for example.
‘Wear and tear includes the bumps, scuffs and wear that happens over time through everyday life in your home, for example, worn carpets, slipped roof tiles and old cracked asphalt all qualify as wear and tear. Home insurance isn’t a home maintenance contract, and many of these issues can be resolved through good home maintenance.’
Similarly, if a slow leak causes damp, and you don’t deal with it, you won’t be covered for repairs.
‘Damp is caused gradually over time, and typically insurers won’t cover you for damage caused gradually.'
‘There’s a lot you can do to prevent damp, such as keeping on top of general maintenance: clearing gutters, making sure your brickwork isn’t crumbling, keeping your home warm and well ventilated, and trying to avoid too much moisture through hanging clothes to dry inside and taking care when cooking.’