Insurance groups outline steps to tackle household water leaks

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A group of insurance trade bodies have come together to raise awareness about household water leaks, after claims leapt by more than 30% to £175 million in Q1 2021 compared to the same time last year.

The Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL), Association of British Insurers (ABI), Managing General Agents’ Association (MGAA), Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA), London & International Insurance Brokers Association (LIIBA), and British Insurers Brokers Association (BIBA), are all working to raise awareness of water leaks and how individuals can help manage the risks of an ‘escape of water’ in their property, as well as suggesting changes to improve the competency of those trades involved in installation and maintenance.

Homeowners likely caught water leaks before they caused significant damage last year, because the cost of related claims fell to £1.4 million per day last year amid Covid-19 restrictions. In 2019, they reached £1.7 million per day.

But the rise in claims for household water leaks in Q1 2021 has prompted this cross-industry initiative to suggest the below steps to minimise the chances of an incident happening. These may be useful to share with prospective and existing policyholders.

  • Know where stopcocks are and make sure that you test them regularly as they often seize up. If there is an escape of water/water leak in your home, turning off the stopcock as soon as possible can help to limit the damage caused. Find out more about stopcocks here.
  • Consider fitting a leak detection device which will monitor your usual water use and turn off the water if it suspects a leak. Use a plumber or a professional to install these types of devices. Some insurers may offer help with the installation of a leak detection device and may also take this into account when pricing your cover.
  • Get a professional to install any new appliances which require plumbing.
  • Where possible, regularly check the pipes where your appliances are plumbed in for any looseness, leaks or drips. In areas where pipes are covered but you still have access (eg, behind removable bath panels, toilet cistern panels and underneath kitchen units, where accessible,) it’s a good idea to take a look every now and then to make sure there aren’t any small leaks that could become major. 
  • Consider what you are putting down your drain, and make sure that you clean drains regularly if you suspect a blockage. Substances such as fats and oils from cooking, produce stickers, baby wipes, sanitary products and even hair can all cause clogs in drains and toilets. You can see a comprehensive list of what not to put down the drain here.
  • It’s best to use appliances when you are at home as opposed to setting them on a timer—that way if there is an issue with the appliance, you have the chance to spot it before it damages your home.
  • Check for leaks from taps, toilets, sinks, baths and showers and make sure you replace any damaged sealant, tiles or cracked shower trays as soon as you spot them.
  • If you are doing any drilling/DIY, make sure you avoid accidentally damaging any water pipes (you can get a stud finder to help you locate them). 
  • You can use your water meter to check for any leaks—make sure nothing is using any water in the property, then turn your stopcock off and note the reading. Check again after a couple of hours to see if the meter reading has changed. If so, it’s likely that there is a leak somewhere.
  • When leaving the property unoccupied for any length of time, it’s best to shut down the water supply if you are able to and it is safe to do so.

In addition to raising awareness of the steps that homeowners can take, the insurance trade bodies are calling for the implementation of clear standards across the plumbing industry to ensure that contractors appointed to fix the problem are properly qualified, competent and use high quality and appropriate materials.

Laurence Besemer, chief executive officer of FOIL, commented: “The cost to consumers of domestic escape of water claims needs to be driven down quickly, and for that reason we are urging improved education on the measures homeowners can take, as well as improved standards and competencies to reduce substandard workmanship and improve awareness of what fraudulent claims look like.”

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About Author

Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk