Does home insurance cover water leaks?
Yes - if you have the right cover.
Some home insurance policies will cover water leaks and some won't. And even policies that include cover may exclude some elements of a claim related to a leak.
For example, companies may pay for the cost of removing parts of your building to find an escape of water but they won't pay for your property to be repaired once the leak is sorted.
Get a quote for Direct Line home insurance, which has created a 'home action plan' that will be put into action within 24-hours if you have a severe leak.
Or check out our list of the best home insurance companies. Many have policies that cover leaks.
It's important you understand a policy before you buy it to ensure it covers anything you're concerned about.
Read on to learn more about:
- Does home insurance cover water leaks?
- What is trace and access?
- How to check if home insurance covers leaks
- What are the common causes of leaks?
- Will home insurance cover damage caused by frozen or burst pipes?
- Will home insurance cover contents damaged by a water leak?
- Will my home insurance cover water leak due to accidental damage?
- Does home emergency cover water leaks?
- What should I do if I have a burst pipe or a water leak?
- How can I prevent a water leak from a frozen pipe?
What is trace and access?
Trace and access refer to the process of locating where a leak is coming from and accessing it to repair it.
Sometimes the leak will be obvious, for example, if you've just drilled through a pipe in your wall. However, you may not know where the water is coming from and a professional will need to use equipment to find it.
It may be expensive or disruptive to access an escape of water that is underground or inside a wall so it's important to check whether trace and access are included in your cover.
How to check if home insurance covers leaks
You need to identify whether a policy covers:
- The cost of finding the leak and accessing it
- The cost of repairing the source of the leak
- The cost of the water damage, e.g. to property or possessions
- The cost of repairing any damage caused when accessing the leak
Different parts of your policy (some may be add-ons when you buy it) will cover these and each company will have its own limits for claims.
For example, home insurance may cover up to £10,000 of work to find and repair a leak or you may be able to get it fixed under a home emergency policy, which won't count as a claim. But some companies won't cover the cost of repairing a hole made to find the leak.
If any contents is damaged you'll need to claim on your contents cover.
To check cover and limits you should look at the policy documents on an insurer's website. If you can't find a relevant section you may need to search the text for words such as 'leak', 'escape of water' and 'trace and access'. Remember to look at the exclusions as well as what is covered.
If you can't see if something is covered you should call the insurance company to ask them.
Direct Line has specific wording about escape of water in its Home Plus insurance.
It is part of its home action plan for leaks, which will provide an emergency plumber, remove potential hazards, make safe electrics, remove damaged items and install dehumidifiers and fans to begin the drying process, and clean or sanitise areas that have been affected.
If your home is uninhabitable, Direct Line can arrange accommodation for you.
Direct Line has an excess of £350 for escape of water and we could not find any information in its policy documents about whether it would pay to repair damage caused by accessing the leak. and if your home is uninhabitable, Direct Line can arrange accommodation for you.
Check out our article on the cost of house insurance to see if you're paying more or less than the average.
What are the common causes of leaks?
Frozen pipes, poorly-installed washing machines or dishwashers, broken radiators, and damage to baths, showers or storage tanks that may be in your loft are common causes of leaks.
Poorly maintained roofs can also cause water damage, especially during a storm.
Be aware that insurance companies may not pay a claim if they believe it is caused by wear and tear. This could be from broken tiles that you should have repaired or pipes you know have been dripping for a while.
Will home insurance cover damage caused by frozen or burst pipes?
If your policy has cover for leaks, it is likely it will cover damage caused by frozen or burst pipes. Although it may not mention these issues specifically in your policy documents.
It is worth checking your policy exclusions. Many companies will not cover homes that have been left empty for long periods and if you have not taken action to prevent a problem or it is caused by wear and tear your claim may be turned down.
GoCompare found in 2012 that 64% of home insurance policies covered the cost of a burst pipe as a result of frost or freezing.
Will home insurance cover contents damaged by a water leak?
If your furniture, TV or other personal possessions are damaged by a leak you may be able to claim if you have contents insurance.
The excess may differ from a claim on your buildings cover and companies differ on whether they will give you cash for the damaged items or replace them with new versions.
If you caused the leak you may only be able to claim if you have accidental damage cover as part of your contents policy.
Saga is able to cover your home and contents against water damaged caused by leaking or overflowing domestic drains, water or heating installations, kitchen appliances and fixed domestic water installations.
It can also provide cover for trace and access and repair of a water leak, up to the building's sum insured. Saga can also cover the reinstatement of a wall, flooring or ceiling removed or damaged during the search and repair of any water pipes.
Check out our list of the best home contents insurance for more information on contents insurance.
Will my home insurance cover my water leak from accidental damage?
If you've accidentally hammered a nail into your wall and caused a water leak, you may not be covered by your home insurance.
It will depend on whether you have accidental damage cover as part of your buildings and/or contents policy. Some of the best home insurance policies include accidental damage cover as standard but for some policies, you have to pay more to add it.
Churchill, for instance, says accidental damage is 'sudden and unintentional physical damage that happens unexpectedly', and says it can pay for accidental damage to underground drains, pipes and tanks which provide services to or from your home. This includes your contents too.
Bear in mind Churchill's accidental damage cover is an optional extra.
Does home emergency cover water leaks?
Some of the top home insurance policies include home emergency cover as standard but it is often an additional extra.
It is designed to deal with things that need to be resolved immediately, else your home be left without heating, lighting, water, or your contents or property will be severely damaged.
Usually, it does not count as a claim and you will not have to pay an excess. The insurer will send out a contractor to diagnose the problem and then they will repair it, as long as the time taken and cost of the repair fall within your home emergency limits.
Home emergency cover will often cover burst internal pipes or leaking radiators, but only if they are an 'emergency', i.e. if they are causing immediate damage to your property or make it difficult to live there.
For more information, check out our article on the best home emergency policies.
What should I do if I have a burst pipe or a water leak?
The first thing you should do is to turn off the water at the mains. This will prevent the water leak from doing any more damage to your or a neighbour's property.
Make sure nothing electric is close to the leak or, if there's no way of moving it, consider turning off your electrical supply. Try to put a bucket under the leak to catch as much of the water as possible to prevent damage.
If you have home insurance, you should contact your provider. They may be able to arrange a plumber or allow you to call one and claim back the costs.
Insurers will often have a 24-hour helpline.
Hopefully, you won't need alternative accommodation after a water leak, but if you do, some home insurance policies will provide this too.
Make sure you take photographs of any damage for evidence and don't throw away any damaged items - you may need them if you are going to make a claim.
How can I prevent a water leak from a frozen pipe?
You should always make sure you know where your main stopcock is and how to turn it on and off. This means if you have a water leak, you can prevent damage yourself. It can be a good idea to twist the stopcock every once in a while so it doesn't get too stiff.
Make sure you repair dripping taps and lag or insulate any pipes that may be liable to freeze. A plumber or tradesman will know how to do this, and while it may cost some money, it will probably be less expensive than a burst pipe and a water leak.
If you're away from your home during especially cold months in winter, you can also help to prevent frozen and frosty pipes by having your heating set to come on for an hour each day or making sure thermostat will turn before the temperature dips below 0.
It also never hurts to have a friend or neighbour check your property regularly while you're away. This means they'll be able to see if anything is amiss and catch any problems quickly, minimising damage and cost.
If you're going to be away from your house for a while, check out our article on unoccupied home insurance.
You can also open your loft trapdoor, if you have one when it gets cold, which will allow warm air to circulate into the loft, helping prevent attic pipes from freezing.
Finally, it pays to regularly check that your plumbing - and your electrics, heating and other utilities - is in good condition and working order. This will prevent you from having to pay more later and will ensure your home insurance still covers you.