27 June 2019
Escape of Water: what to look out for and preventative measures
Escape of Water is one of the most frequently reported claims in relation to Property insurance. These types of claims most often refer to plumbing-related problems and can originate from burst pipes or leaking appliances.
This differs to Flood claims in that the water has entered the premises from an internal source rather than an external one. The extent of damage is not always obvious at first glance and losses can quickly escalate.
With more of the population now living in high rise blocks of flats, escape of water incidents now have the potential to affect multiple households at once. Due to this, costs are inflated, and insurers are looking at higher claims expenses which, in turn, raises premiums.
Unsurprisingly, this is of major concern to managing agents when attempting to insure their properties in the most cost-effective way. The best method to manage these claims is, of course, with prevention and education.
Where possible, regular checks should be conducted of pipes, where appliances are plumbed in, for any looseness, leaks or drips. In areas where pipes are covered but there is still limited access (e.g. behind removable bath panels, toilet cistern panels and underneath kitchen units) it’s a good idea to frequently check for any small leaks which could become more of an issue. If any damage to sealants, tiles or shower trays/baths is noticed, these should be rectified as soon as possible.
Managing agents should also do their best to encourage tenants to consider what they are putting down their drains. Substances such as fats and oils can cause clogs in the system which will result in an escape of water.
Tenants should be advised to only use appliances when at home in order to spot any leaks before they escalate. If appliances are set to run whilst a tenant is at work, for example, this could mean that the leakage will not be discovered for several hours. This gives the water time to soak into the materials around it and can cause more issues later.
Water meters can also be a useful way to check for leaks. Cease all water use in the property, then turn off the stopcock and note the reading. Check it again after a couple of hours to see if the reading has changed. If it has, it is likely there is a leak somewhere.
Technology can help
With the increase in technology various ‘smart leak’ devices have recently made a debut in the market. These can be installed in areas that are susceptible to water damage, such as under kitchen sinks or near appliances. These devices are able to monitor the flow of water and can detect even the most minute changes. Often they are Wi-Fi enabled and can communicate with a smart-home hub or a mobile phone, alerting someone to a possible leak before it becomes a larger issue. Some of these devices are also equipped to cut off water supplies as soon as a problem is identified.
One final, important, thing to consider is ensuring that any unoccupied properties are also taking precautions. Most insurers will increase excesses when a property is empty for a period. This is because a leak will likely go for longer undetected. In this situation more damage is likely to be caused thus increasing the claim amount. If you are aware that a property is going to be left unoccupied for any period, it is a good idea to turn the water supply off and drain down the heating system and pipes. This is especially important in the winter to avoid the freezing of pipes which can then burst under the pressure.
However, if sprinkler protection is necessary in the premises water supplies should remain on and in these cases background heating and/or trace heating should be provided to the pipework. All unoccupied properties should also be regularly checked to ensure that any deluges of water are quickly dealt with.