When you’ve spotted a leak, the worst thing to do is ignore it and hope it goes away. That’s how you could end up turning a small problem into a catastrophe.
Some leaks are easy to find, but when you're not sure where it's coming from then it might require more in-depth investigation. But are you covered by your home insurance? That answer depends on whether you have trace and access cover.
What is trace and access cover?
Trace and access cover refers to the part of your home insurance policy that deals with finding the source of a leak.
It also deals with making sure it can be accessed for repairs.
While some leaks are easy to spot, for instance if you have water pouring through your ceiling, others could be harder to detect.
The first signs that something might be amiss could be:
A damp patch on a wall or floor that indicates water is leaking somewhere.
The smell of gas, indicating a potential gas leak.
Whatever the type of leak, you don't want to ignore it and hope it goes away, especially when it could lead to far worse problems down the line.
Plus, if you have a water meter and have an undetected leak, you could be paying much higher water bills than you should be.
Does my home insurance cover trace and access as standard?
Trace and access cover isn’t always included in insurance policies as standard, so you should check if you’ve got it.
Some providers do include it, so it’s a factor to consider when you’re deciding who to buy home insurance from.
The amount you're insured for could vary, too.
Whenever you buy or renew your home insurance, look at the policy wording to see whether trace and access is included and how much insurance you're covered for.
If your insurance policy doesn’t include it, you might be responsible for paying the full cost of any investigations that are required when you have a leak.
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The benefits of having trace and access cover
As a homeowner who has plenty of other bills to pay, the last things you want are unexpected costs and disruptions to your daily life.
That's why having trace and access cover could be beneficial, as it might help pay for any investigations needed to find the source of leaks.
It could also cover any repairs needed to fix the damage that’s been caused by the search.
Without it, it might be up to you to fund the costs.
Be warned that trace and access often doesn’t cover the costs associated with repairing the leak. So, check your home insurance policy carefully to make sure that it covers the bill.
What are trace and access costs?
Finding the source of a non-obvious leak can be costly.
When a leak occurs in pipework that's hidden behind walls, floors or ceilings, investigating can also be an extremely disruptive process.
Flooring might need to be taken up, you might need to look in the walls and you could even have problems with underground burst pipes.
Who’s responsible for sewerage and underground pipes?
If underground services such as gas, water, sewage or cable pipes run across your private land, you're responsible for them.
If there are pipes under your drive or garden that also serve the needs of your neighbours, every property owner concerned has a joint responsibility for them.
If your trace and access insurance policy covers the cost of repairing pipes, this could help if a problem occurs.
Be aware that some policies might cover only accidental damage that occurs to pipes. So, always check the terms carefully before you choose an insurer and take out your policy.
As with other insurance policies, trace and access cover tends to come with specific terms and conditions.
Make sure you’re aware of precisely what’s covered and how it can be used.
Are underground pipes covered by home insurance?
Damage to underground water, sewage and gas pipes is usually covered by home insurance if they cross your private land.
However, you might not be covered if:
The pipes aren’t on your land,
The damage is not accidental.
The pipes degrade due to usual wear and tear.
What happens if I suspect a leak?
If you suspect you have a leak – or come across something awry during a monthly maintenance check – look to hire a tradesperson by phoning a plumber or engineer.
They should be able to:
Assess the problem.
Look for the source of the leak.
Advise on any work that needs to be carried out.
Unless it's an emergency situation, it's a good idea to check whether or not your insurance company prefers you to call them first.
Some companies prefer to supply you with an approved plumber or engineer to carry out any work.
What do I do if I find a leak in my home?
Once you’ve identified a leak, the next stage is accessing it and getting repairs done.
If you need to remove a floor or sink to get at the pipes, your insurance company might pay only for things that are deemed necessary.
This means they might not pay up if they think you’ve done work that was excessive or unneeded.
For example, let’s say you have a sink removed in your kitchen, but the tradesperson also took out some kitchen cupboards.
Your insurance company might not pay for the cost of having new cupboards put back in.
How do I make a trace and access insurance claim?
Contact your insurers early, ideally before any work is carried out.
This is important because some might prefer you to use a specialist trace and access company.
The company should expose the leak, making sure it’s accessible, and then should produce a report for your insurer.
You then pass this on to your provider who should then reimburse you for the costs.
Why might a trace and access claim be refused?
There are a few reasons why your insurer may refuse your trace and access claim, for example:
There's no water damage. Although rare, if no water damage is found then it's hard to determine whether there was a leak at all.
Escape of water vs ingress of water. Trace and access covers things like a burst pipe where water has escaped, but it doesn't cover water coming in from the outside (ingress).
Investigations found that a water leak isn't the problem. You won't be covered if they find that the source of your problems is not from a water leak, and so no insurable event has taken place.