Thaw may bring cold comfort for householders

Household insurance should cover burst pipes caused by frost, but it pays to check the wording. By Paul Gosling

This winter's freeze has already caused a pounds 500m bill for frost damage and 75 per cent of all claims in the past two weeks have been for burst pipes.

Householders returning after a Christmas holiday to burst pipes and waterlogged homes might tell themselves that it could be worse. Home and contents insurance should pay for new pipes and damage to building and belongings where frost has caused the burst, although Commercial Union is one of few insurers who does not charge a pounds 50 to pounds 200 excess on claims.

If the same thing had happened because of corrosion, the cost of replacement pipes - which can be several hundred pounds - would not be covered.

The water companies have problems of their own with burst pipes and leaking mains. But some of them are wrongly claiming that householders are not normally covered for pipe bursts from frost between the stopcock and a property boundary.

Colin Winsper, managing director of South Staffordshire Water, said: "There are one or two [insurers] that cover repair to pipe work but very, very few." This view was also expressed by representatives of Anglian Water and North Surrey Water, which sell policies.

Leaflets put out by Anglian Water and South Staffs Water promoting policies underwritten by Leatherhead-based Gesa (Group European Assistance) both say: "What may surprise you is that in the event of a flood caused by a burst pipe, it's unlikely that a standard home insurance policy will cover the cost of repairs." The brochure does point out that a standard home insurance policy provides cover for accidental damage to water supply pipes or drains, but fails to explain that insurers classify frost damage as accidental.

John Kirkman of Green Flag, which underwrites the policies offered by 12 supply companies, including North Surrey and Yorkshire Water, added: "Our understanding is that the mains supply to a house is not covered." But the Association of British Insurers said that it believed all standard home insurance policies included cover for bursts of the supply pipes arising from frost. And in an extensive phone round of insurers the Independent could find none whose policies excluded underground pipe bursts from frost.

Tony McMahon, claims manager of Sun Alliance Connections, suggested: "Each individual should check their policy carefully. The wording may vary from insurer to insurer and policy to policy. The main exclusion will be if a property is unfurnished or unoccupied."

The worst problems face occupants who took a winter holiday and failed to take precautions against frost. Householders may even find they have lost their insurance cover if the absence was prolonged - either over 30 days or 60 days, according to the policy - and they did not make special arrangements with their insurer.

Insurers will normally insist on either central heating being kept on, or water supplies switched off at the stopcock, and homes being visited daily during a long absence or weekly in the case of second homes. In rare instances insurers may require water systems to be drained.

There are other cases where policies may not provide cover. Unprotected external pipes, and those in outbuildings, are not covered by Direct Line's policies, though they are by most insurers.

Standard buildings and contents policies give cover for consequential damage (such as to possessions, plasterwork and ceilings) from burst pipes, whether they are caused by frost or wear and tear. But standard homes policies only cover replacement costs of pipes where they have been "accidentally" damaged, a definition that includes bursts caused by frost.

Several water supply companies are offering policies that provide cover against bursts caused by wear and tear - which Gesa, underwriters of some of the policies, points out normally cause 90 per cent of bursts. Taking out a supplementary policy may be justified, but householders need to be aware of the limited benefits they are gaining. Gesa's Home Service Scheme costs an annual premium of pounds 45, for which cover is obtained for up to pounds 150 for internal plumbing emergencies, and up to pounds 550 for external pipe bursts, including those caused by wear and tear.

Green Flag's Home Assist policy, at pounds 72 a year, is more extensive, and covers other home emergencies, such as faulty central heating boilers, and its Home Assist Plus policy, at pounds 96, also covers roofing problems. Cover is limited to pounds 100 of parts and material, plus four hours of labour. Gesa's and Green Flag's policies contain no excess charges for claimants to pay.

One of the advantages of home assistance policies is that the insurer will engage the plumber on behalf of the householder, but some insurers, such as Touchline, also offer this facility.

The benefits of insurance are demonstrated by 72 year old Mrs Cecilia Wilson of Kilwinning in Ayrshire. She woke up last Saturday morning to find the flat upstairs had been flooded from a burst pipe. When the water cascaded into her flat it destroyed her ceiling, the television, video and various bits of furniture.

Mrs Wilson has a standard home and contents policy with Direct Line, which is not only paying to replace damaged items, but is also meeting any costs from her husband having to stay in a nursing home while the flat is made habitable. Mr Wilson was in hospital when the burst took place.

Mrs Wilson is grateful to her insurers. "They have been absolutely splendid," she said. "They came in right away. I don't know how much it is all going to cost, but the insurer is going to pay it direct."

Green Flag: 0800 800688

Gesa: 01372 366701

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Simon Read: The timeshare battle intensifies with Macdonald Resorts

An action group of disaffected Macdonald owners are now readying for their own legal battle with the company

Debt problems: How you can nip your money problems in the bud and sleep easy at night

Money worries are keeping more than 7 million of us awake at night

Venture Capital Trusts: You will love the tax-free income

To encourage investment in this higher-risk area, the Government offers generous tax relief to those who invest in new issues of VCT shares

Runaway debt: It's the new norm for university students now

StepChange, the debt charity, has revealed that students who called its helpline in 2013 had racked up average debts of £7,818

Michael's crisis could have 'dragged on for a long time', says CPA adviser Ruth Millward, right

More than 300,000 adults are too deeply in debt to apply for bankruptcy

Charities are urging the Government to offer a cheaper alternative for people in financial difficulty

Scottish independence: How will kilt-edged stocks fare?

Scottish companies were caned when the separatists surged in the polls. Is this the future, asks Simon Read, and would they be any better together?

Two million first-time buyers are locked out

The drought in lending to people with low deposits has created legions of frustrated buyers, writes Emma Lunn

Leaving money to charity in your will could help reduce the tax bill for your loved ones

Next week has been designated "remember a charity in your will week", to put the focus squarely on the subject
Money is slipping through our fingers: the UK is falling behind other countries in the amount we put away

How to save money: UK is crashing down the European league table for putting money away

The UK has slipped to 11th in the latest European league table of savers. Rob Griffin checks out the best options

Energy firms found guilty of bad practice could have licences revoked under Labour government

Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, says a Labour government would create a new energy regulator

A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university

Fresh from A-level delight, the moment does not have to be soured by students resigning themselves to thousands of pounds worth of debt in three years' time. Rob Griffin sees how to pass the university challenge

'Dismal' eurozone data sparks concerns

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi is under pressure to launch promised stimulus before the EU slides further
Love but not marriage: property is one area where cohabiting couples are in danger of losing out

How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting

People who simply live together cannot assume they have the same rights to each other's assets as spouses or civil partners. Michelle McGagh sees how they can protect their financial interests
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence