Home insurance and drainage: what you need to know

House in man's hands

Think home insurance is too complicated? If so, you’re not alone. A nationwide study we recently carried out found that 85% of British homeowners think that home insurance is simply too complex.

But what does that have to do with us? Well, a big part of our work involves teaming up with insurance companies to help residents across Britain get things back to normal following a drainage emergency. That means we can see first-hand just how devastating emergencies like these can become if the victim doesn’t understand the level of insurance cover they have.

It’s clear both from our experience and our recent survey that homeowners need to know more about what their home insurance policies can – and do – cover. So, what do you need to know about home insurance to make sure a drainage disaster doesn’t turn into a costly saga?

Are you responsible?

First of all, you need to know who is responsible for the drains affected.

For the most part, the drains that exist within the boundaries of a property are the responsibility of the property’s owner. That means you will have to make sure your home insurance covers damage to your drains, or pay to repair them if it doesn’t. In some cases you might be required to have insurance for a drain on your property. Your building insurance provider will be able to tell you if this is the case for you and what level of cover you have.

Pipe mis-connections

Another thing you need to know is about pipe ‘mis-connections’ and the issues they can cause from an insurance perspective.

What do we mean by mis-connections? Imagine you’re installing a washing machine in your garage, and have linked the discharge pipe to the nearest drain on your property. That drain is likely to be an external gully drain that is only supposed to be for surface water (i.e. rainwater), not for foul water containing detergents.

Now the problem here is that you could get penalised by your local utility company for contaminating the drainage system. Any penalties that do get dished out won’t be insured, plus if your drains become damaged as a result it may be difficult to get them repaired under the terms of your insurance policy.

Before connecting anything new to the drainage system, it’s always worth checking where that drain should be connected – this can be accurately identified with a CCTV survey.

Pitch fibre pipes

It’s also worth knowing whether the pipes on your property are made from pitch fibre.

Pitch fibre pipes were frequently used in the 1950s and 60s, as a cheap alternative to clay piping. However, they have a tendency to distort and collapse. As a result, if you are responsible for pitch fibre pipes, that could affect your home insurance policy.

According to the Financial Ombudsman, “some insurers may refuse to pay claims where it turns out that the underground pipes were made from pitch fibre. They may say that damage to pipes made from pitch fibre is not covered under the policy because it:

  • Does not fall with the definition of accidental damage; or
  • Is excluded as the damage was caused by wear and tear or gradual deterioration or another reason covered by an exclusion in the policy.”

So our advice to you is to arrange a CCTV drain inspection to find out if you have pitch fibre pipes, and check your home insurance policy, paying particular attention to any exclusions in your cover.

For more information on pitch fibre pipes, visit this page.