Leak detection – how much could you save?

Do your neighbours have contents insurance? If not, a leak or a burst pipe in a neighbouring or upstairs flat could end up costing you thousands of pounds. To help solve this problem, there are leak detection systems on the market that could be worth thinking about.

The Association of British Insurers estimates that a burst pipe can release enough water to fill 48 bathtubs. Imagine that amount of water flooding through the ceiling of a flat and then think about the damage caused as a result. Sadly, that scenario isn’t an unusual one. Between 2014 and 2016, the total cost of ‘escape of water’ claims rose by 24%. And during the first nine months of 2017, claims like this cost insurers £483 million.

Even a small amount of water damage can mean claiming on insurance to pay for redecoration or a new ceiling

The ABI reckons claims are increasing for a number of reasons. Everyone wants a high spec kitchen with integrated plumbed-in appliances and there are now more bathrooms in new properties. Use of push-fit pipes by the plumbing industry is increasing; and in some cases, pipes are being poorly installed. Whatever the cause, for property managers as well as residents, a serious leak in a residential block is a major headache.

Residents frequently fall out over water damage and insurance claims, which on average are around £25,000 for a burst pipe. Add to this the fact that 1 in 5 UK homeowners has no contents insurance and property managers inevitably find themselves involved in disputes. Many block insurers are now introducing additional excesses for water damage. So leaks add up to a big problem for everyone.

Last month, leak detection specialist Aqualeak produced a new technical guide that explains the way leak detection systems work and the components required. It includes easy-to-understand technical illustrations showing how systems are installed.

Another company, LeakSafe also has a list of frequently asked questions on its website which are a good starting point for anyone wondering if these systems are worth the investment.

Obviously, installation comes at a cost and retrofitting isn’t possible in all existing developments. But if you live in a block that has had problems with leaking pipes – and have paid the price – it could be worth considering. Maybe raise the issue with your property manager or freeholder at your next resident’s meeting.

And the really good news for flat owners – apart from preventing water damage of course – is that leak detection systems can have a positive impact on block insurance premiums.