What is ‘escape of water’ – and is it covered by your home insurance?

What you need to know

House, Rooftop, Ceiling, Leaking, Water

When a water pipe bursts in your home you might be inclined to refer to it as ‘a flood’, but home insurance providers usually refer to that experience as ‘escape of water’ rather than flooding.

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In most cases the insurance industry’s definition of flooding is an external water source (such as a river that has burst its banks) that gains access to your home and causes water damage.

Escape of water, on the other hand, is the insurance industry’s terminology for water damage that is caused by an internal water source, whether that’s a burst pipe under your kitchen sink, a leaking dishwasher or a faulty washing machine.

Most standard home insurance policies will cover for you for flooding – provided your home isn’t located on a flood plain and you haven’t withheld information about your property experiencing flooding in the past.

When it comes to ‘escape of water’ many standard home insurance policies will offer you some coverage as well, but there are usually a few more caveats to bear in mind.

Escape of water – what you need to know
It probably goes without saying that home insurance policies can vary significantly from one home insurance provider to the next, so it’s vital that you check your own policy documents in order to know what you are and aren’t covered for.

However, in many cases a standard home insurance policy will cover you for water damage that might be caused be an ‘escape of water’ incident, provided you satisfy a few key requirements:

• You’ve kept the property in a good state of repair – Most home insurance policies will carry a clause indicating that your home must be ‘in a good state of repair’. In practice this means it’s up to you to keep on top of jobs like clearing gutters and lagging exposed water pipes against frost damage, and you will also have to ensure that your home appliances are in good working order and are serviced regularly. If you fail to take these steps and subsequently claim for escape of water damage there’s the risk that your claim might be denied.

• The damage wasn’t due to negligence on your part – If you decided to repair a faulty dishwasher yourself, and your repair work subsequently resulted in a leak that damaged your flooring, walls or contents, there’s a good chance you might not be covered by your home insurance policy because you failed to get a qualified plumber to do the work. Or more simply, if you suffer water damage in your bathroom because you forgot to turn off an overflowing bathtub, there’s the possibility your home insurance provider might class that as the result of negligence on your part and refuse to pay out.

Frozen water pipes – are you covered?
A common cause of water damage in homes during winter months is frozen water pipes that crack during the expansion and contraction process that sharp temperature changes can cause.

But will your home insurance cover the cost if you experience water damage due to frozen pipes? The short answer is ‘it depends’.

If you live in an area that often experiences sharp drops in temperature during the winter months then your home insurance provider could argue that failing to insulate your water pipes constitutes failing to keep your property ‘in a good state of repair’.

On the other hand, if temperatures rarely drop anywhere close to freezing in your area, even in the dead of winter, then it could be argued that it would be reasonable to assume your pipes didn’t need lagging.

Of course, given the fact that it doesn’t cost a lot to lag your water pipes it might be worth considering it no matter where you live – doing so isn’t just a matter of good home maintenance, it could also help you avoid ‘escape of water!’

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