Escape of water, whether caused by plumbing issues or burst or blocked pipes, can cause considerable damage to properties and huge headaches for landlords. And with lockdown meaning many properties are stood empty for days or weeks at a time, the risks are even greater.
We take a closer look at the common causes of escape of water claims and the steps businesses can take to protect themselves.
Common causes of escape of water claims
- Frozen water pipes – extreme winter weather in recent years has led to an increase in issues caused by frozen pipes, with the ABI describing 2018 as the worst period of broken pipes on record in the UK.
- Blocked waste pipes –build up in pipes can lead to increased pressure and cause damage to the seals, allowing water to escape.
- DIY errors – a shortage of plumbers and rising prices has led many property owners to ‘have a go’ at tasks like fitting washing machines and installing showers.
- Wear and tear – a significant proportion of water-related claims are a result of slow leaks which have been caused by wear and tear or reoccurring small accidents i.e. white goods leaking.
Problems caused by escape of water
Even seemingly small leaks can cause significant problems for property owners, with the tiniest of ruptures potentially releasing large amounts of water. According to the ABI, a claim relating to a burst pipe costs nearly £9,000 on average.
As well as damage to ceilings, walls, floors and building contents, escape of water can have wide-reaching implications including:
- Subsidence damage if water disrupts property foundations
- Business Interruption and loss of rent or income during repairs
- The cost of alternative accommodation and/or premises
Tips to help prevent escape of water
- Learn to identify frozen pipes
One of the most common oversights is ignoring frozen pipes until it’s too late. If the water supply has slowed down to a trickle, if water is coming out ice-cold or if your taps are letting off a strange odour (which suggests a blockage caused by frozen water), pipes need to be checked for frost. Heating any frozen areas with a hairdryer or space heater can help get water flowing normally again.
- Insulate exposed pipes
One of the best ways to prevent burst pipes is to insulate them with pipe wrap or insulating tape. The most important areas to focus on are the weaker parts of the pipes, such as the joints. In particular, exposed pipes, such as those running along exterior walls, and in the roof and basement, need to be protected.
- Check your property regularly
If premises are closed for an extended period, even if you don’t suspect any issues, it’s worth conducting regular checks just to be sure. If escape of water issues are left unattended for long periods, the damage can be significantly worse than if it’s caught early. With the latest national lockdown, check local guidance around inspecting premises:
- ‘Lag’ your heating
Businesses often turn off their heating overnight and at the weekend. But if a sudden cold snap occurs, pipes can freeze and burst while no one’s around. By setting the heating to come on at regular intervals (otherwise known as ‘lagging’), you can keep water flowing through pipes, ensuring they don’t have time to freeze.
- Disable the water supply in empty properties
Whether a property will be vacant for a week or several years, it’s safest to shut off the water supply while no one’s around. That way, if a pipe bursts, the damage caused will be negligible.
- If your pipes do burst, turn off the stopcock right away
By stopping the supply of water to a burst pipe sooner rather than later, you can significantly reduce the damage caused by flooding. Landlords who manage large buildings with complex pipe systems, may want to invest in automatic leak detection equipment, which will instantly turn off the water supply if a leak is detected.
- Take action to prevent waste pipes from becoming blocked
Tenants should be reminded that only toilet paper should be disposed of down the toilet and that only water should be poured down external drains. Landlords can provide drain protectors for all sinks, baths and showers to prevent food waste and hair escaping down the plughole.
- Ensure pipework and seals are good quality
Plumbing isn’t an area in which to cut corners. Landlords should invest in high quality pipework and seals and have a qualified plumber undertake any work such as fitting washing machines or installing new showers.
We’re working with LeakSafe
In order to help minimise the risk associated with water leaks and burst pipes for our customers, we are working with LeakSafe, a specialist in water leak detection and prevention systems as part of Risk Assist.
All LeakSafe systems are specifically tailored to the building type and occupancy level and include systems to turn off water if a property is unoccupied and remotely monitor risk.
Benefits of using LeakSafe technology include:
- Automatic leak detection of both clean and dirty water
- Accurate leak location information
- Automatic notification of any issues via email, text or app
For more information about LeakSafe sign up or log in to the NIG Risk Assist portal or speak to your usual NIG contact.