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How winter increases the risk of escape of water damage in homes – and what you can do to prevent it

Escape of water is a significant risk for property owners at any time of the year, but during the colder winter months homes can be particularly vulnerable.

According to statistics from the Association of British Insurers’ State of the Market report, escape of water accounted for 30% of all domestic insurance claims in 2018 – leading to insurers paying out around £1.8m every day for home insurance claims related to the escape of water.

leaking water pipe

As the cold temperature sets in, the likelihood of claims increases – largely due to the risk of pipes freezing and bursting. Properties belonging to those with Prestige Home Cover Policies could be at particular risk during cold weather for a number of reasons:

Age of the properties – ‘Prestige Homes’ are more likely to be older, larger properties. This not only means the pipework is usually older and at greater risk of corrosion, but also the vast network of pipes used throughout the property are harder to access. The pipes are therefore more likely to freeze and burst unless precautions are taken.

Size of the properties – Larger properties tend to be at greater risk of having problems that go undetected. Even small leaks can cause a lot of damage if they are not spotted and fixed early. Repairing water damage can be expensive and time-consuming, involving installing pumps and dehumidifiers, repairing damage and replacing flooring and soft furnishings – and the larger the property, the larger the cost.

High value of contents – Those with Prestige Home Cover are more likely to have high-value items that could be ruined by water damage. This can include works of art, expensive furniture items and furnishings like carpets, cushions and curtains.

Unoccupied properties – If a property is regularly unoccupied then the risk of escape of water damage is higher as the issue may not be spotted until it is too late. As those with Prestige Home Cover are more likely to own more than one property and split their time between them, the risk becomes much greater.


How to avoid escape of water during winter

The risk of damage from escape of water during the winter months can be minimised by taking some simple precautions:


Understand the layout of the property

In older houses with large pipe networks, it can be difficult to know exactly where leaks originate from. It is therefore important that you know where the pipe access points are in the property, where the stopcock is and the location of pipework throughout the house – which should be available in the original building plans.


Take practical steps to limit the risk

It is important for property owners to identify areas where pipes could be at a higher risk of freezing e.g. external pipes, pipes in basements and attics etc. and to cover them with the appropriate lagging/insulation.

High-value contents and items should be moved so they are not directly below pipes if possible,

If properties are left unoccupied over winter then aim to keep the temperature within the building above 10°C. It is also a good idea to have a trusted neighbour regularly check the property if possible.


Carry out regular maintenance

Even when the property is occupied, homeowners should look to carry out regular maintenance checks – particularly in larger homes where leaks and other issues could go undetected.


Consider using smart home devices

There are a lot of smart home devices that can help homeowners protect their properties throughout the winter months. These include smart boilers and thermostats that enable you to remotely monitor and manage the temperature in a property. There are also water leak detectors that can alert if the water levels changes – some can even shut the water supply off automatically if a leak is detected.


Speaking about the risk of escape of water, BHIB’s Private Clients’ Executive Matt Burridge said:

“The cost to the industry is estimated at £1bn owing to water leaks – it remains a perilous endemic and has major implications on client renewals.

“Some Prestige Insurers are now offering complimentary Leak Detection systems such as LeakBot which on application will preclude the normal excess being applied and additionally some Prestige writers will not apply onerous terms at the next renewal.  Some insurers even offer a contribution towards a full water leak shut off protection system such as DanTaet (subject to claim cost).”

If you would like more information on the services and solutions provided by our Private Clients team, please contact us now on 0330 024 06 06 or email Account Executive Matt Burridge directly on