Press releases

Escape of Water now greater risk than burglary to UK homes.

Malcolm Cooper - Underwriting Director - Legal & General Insurance
Malcolm Cooper
Underwriting Director
Legal & General Insurance

09 November 2011

Malcolm Cooper - Underwriting Director - Legal & General Insurance
Malcolm Cooper
Underwriting Director
Legal & General Insurance

'Stop the Drop' campaign launched to improve awareness and help reduce risk of EOW damage to UK homes in the future.

Our changing home lifestyles means that damage as a result of an Escape of Water (EOW), such as a burst pipe, is a greater risk for UK homes than burglary. So, the 'Stop the Drop' campaign by Legal & General aims to highlight just how real the risk of damage from an Escape of Water is by providing timely preventative measures and tips, to help reduce the risk and limit the potentially devastating consequences, distress and financial implications the damage may cause.

In 1970, only 30% of UK homes were fitted with central heating; today this figure is closer to 95%. In addition, more of us have plumbed-in white goods, such as dishwashers, washing machines and fridges with icemakers that require their own plumbing system; in 1970 65% of houses had a washing machine, now this figure stands at 96%. So with more appliances and 'wet' areas in our homes comes a greater risk of water leaks and water damage.

In addition, the UK has experienced some of the most bitterly cold winters in recent years. This has resulted in an increase in water pipes freezing and then bursting, especially if preventative measures have not been taken.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) reported that the cost to the insurance industry from an Escape of Water was a colossal £730 million in 2010. This is nearly double the cost of burglary claims over the same period, which amounted to £370 million. With over 370,000 people making an insurance claim for damage from an Escape of Water, the average claim cost was just under £2,000. Figures for the repair costs to the UK insurance industry for damage caused by water leaks in the home last year were nearly double the cost of burglary claims. So an Escape of Water is now a higher potential risk to UK homes than the risk of burglary.

Most likely sources of water damage

Based on Legal & General's experience, the most common source of water damage in UK homes is as a result of a leak from plumbing in an upstairs bathroom. However, it is the kitchen that is most likely to be affected, as they are often positioned below a bathroom. The build-up of water can bring a ceiling down causing extensive damage to kitchen units and appliances below. With the average cost of a new kitchen at over £10,000 ; the average cost of replacing carpeting throughout a house at £2,500 plus the cost of the actual repairs and then possibly alternative accommodation while the work is being carried out, a water leak of this nature can be incredibly expensive. So as well as being potentially devastating, an Escape of Water can also be a cause of severe financial hardship if insurance cover is not in place and personal funds are needed to cover all the costs.

Legal & General's 'Stop the Drop' Report reveals that the top 3 sources of water damage are:

  • Water pipes, for example a leaking pipe that is unseen inside a cabinet, under the floor or behind a wall at 35% of claims;
  • Heating/pipes, such as a frozen pipe left un-lagged in winter which bursts when the water starts to thaw, damaging the surrounding walls, floors and furniture, at 14% of claims;
  • Showers at 10% of claims, for example, where an upstairs shower with badly-fitted seals results in water to build up causing the ceiling below to collapse.

All properties at risk

Although all properties are at risk, 87% of the Escape of Water claims Legal & General receive are from those living in detached houses, semi-detached houses and terraced houses. Often it is the case that these properties have been fitted with new plumbing after the initial build has been completed, for example, the addition of an en-suite bathroom. Under-floor heating can also add additional risk, as can open-plan layouts where a leak can spread from room to room.

Legal & General's 'Stop the Drop' Report contains a range of suggested preventative measures that can be taken to lessen the risk of an Escape of Water happening in a home,

Additional risk from another 'Big Freeze'

Temperatures have plummeted to below freezing for the past few years. During the 'Big Freeze' last winter, when temperatures dropped to -20C, the ABI has estimated that the industry paid out £7m per day due to the damage caused by burst pipes, with more than 1.5 million homes across the UK affected.

Legal & General saw a dramatic increase in claims for damage from frozen pipes, up from 1.3% of overall claims in 2009 to 6.5% in 2010, with some of these claims being for more than £10,000 worth of damage.

Legal & General has calculated that the increase in Escape of Water claims currently adds £54 on average to every household insurance premium in the UK. If the number of claims could be reduced then the savings in claims cost may then be reflected in the premiums customers pay.

Malcolm Cooper, Director for Legal & General's general insurance business said:"Unfortunately, too many people are not aware of the distress and damage that an Escape of Water can cause. We are aware of other risks to our home, such as burglary, flood and fire, but a water leak is something homeowners don't think they need to worry about. However, statistically, it is likely that a homeowner will suffer an Escape of Water at least once in their life.

Leaving a water leak to continue to drip and not repaired can eventually result in major damage, as well as extra cost added to a water bill if there is a water meter installed. A ceiling can come down; a carpet can be ruined, as water pours out of a burst pipe under pressure. So a small leak can often become a big financial problem.

We would advise homeowners and anyone in rented accommodation to make sure they act quickly to'Stop the Drop' and to check and take any preventative measures now to help reduce the risk of damage, particularly before winter really starts."

Legal & General's 'Stop the Drop' tips to help protect and minimise water leaks in the home include:

  • Check insulation and lagging on any water pipes and tanks. Don't forget any pipes outside or in a loft.
  • Between November and March, make sure a property is at least 12˚C during day and night, particularly if away from home, even if only overnight.
  • If going away, on holiday or for work reasons, keep the loft hatch open so that warm air can get to any pipes in this space.
  • Find out where the stop tap is located. This is the first thing needed to stop water escaping if a pipe does burst.
  • Consider fitting a device to detect water leaks which then cut off the water supply.
  • Check radiator valves regularly for leaks.
  • Check the sealant around a bath or shower and replace if loose or damaged.
  • Check washers on taps and replace t