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Ensuring broken pipe premiums are not money down the drain

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Australians seeking an insurance provider for their home, investment property or other private building asset are advised to compare policies closely to determine whether coverage for broken pipes suits the particular risk factors for their situation and location.

Mainmark Ground Engineering Civil Engineer James O'Grady says tens of thousands of buildings are damaged by broken stormwater and sewer pipes every year in Australia, turning homeowners and body corporates to their building insurance clauses to determine if the damage is an insured event or not.

“It’s easy to get lost in the language of policies when signing up as a customer or making a claim, and when it comes to broken pipes not every situation is covered,” he said.

In general, water damage resulting from a sudden or accidental leak is likely to be covered by home and contents insurance depending on the specific ‘escape of liquid’ and water damage wording.

Water damage resulting from earth movement may not be covered by insurance unless there is subsidence as a direct consequence of a water leak. It is common for the damage to the home to be covered but not the repair or replacement of the source of the leak, such as the pipe.

When loss or damage occurs due to the gradual deterioration of poorly maintained pipes, causing water to leak over time, coverage is dependent upon the ‘escape of liquid’ clauses, which generally fit into one of the following categories:

  • Sudden and unexpected escape: Cover is usually quite limited, mainly covering a burst water main or garden irrigation pipe that is buried in the ground.
  • Sudden escape. This includes burst pipes above ground.
  • Unexpected escape. Covers all water escapes from services in the ground, mains water, sewer and storm water pipes.
  • All escape. This is the rarest cover and includes both the leaks you can’t see, such as a broken pipe in the ground, and those you can see, such as an overflowing blocked gutter.

Mr O’Grady advises looking for signs of leaking pipes to proactively stay ahead of any significant foundation ground or structural problems.

Mainmark has 15 sites across Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the UK and offers solutions for ground stabilisation, void filling, stopping water ingress, raising and levelling on-ground and in-ground structures and fixing anchors.