Looking after your property: water damage 

From floods to leaking pipes, there are several ways that a vacant home can be at risk of water damage. If you own an unoccupied property, the impact of water damage can be even more significant because the leak can go unnoticed for longer periods of time than a leak occurring in a home that has someone living in it.

To protect yourselves, and your empty property, it’s important to consider the risks of water damage and how you can try to prevent it.

Any home can be at risk of water damage 

Perhaps your property stands on a flood plain or is near a river or stream - and an unexpected storm leads to rising water levels that finds it way through your front door. Maybe your water tank is suffering from wear and tear, or a pipe fractures or bursts? Either way, even the smallest of leaks can create damage that can run into the thousands of pounds to put right again.

According to the Association of British Insurers, the trade body for the insurance industry, escape of water is one of the most common claims for domestic properties with insurers’ paying out £1.8million every day for it. In fact, the average cost of repairing a flood damaged home from the effects of the 2020 Storms Ciara and Dennis is expected to be around £32,000 and in most cases the properties affected would have been unoccupied at the time.

In a number of cases, the first signs of water damage are not large pools of standing water. The first signs might be discolouration on the ceilings or walls, an odd smell or occasional dripping. Though it’s easy to see when a house has been flooded, the signs of water damage in your property may be a lot more subtle.

Dealing with water damage 

The ideal scenario is to first look at taking steps that could help prevent or minimise the risk of a leak in your unoccupied property. These become particularly important during the winter months where the risk of burst pipes increases due to the change in temperature.

Here are a few checks and tips that could help:

  • Know where your stopcocks are and look to turn off your water supply at these points if you are able and it is safe to do so. In addition, you can arrange for your water tank and central heating system to be drained. Obviously, in winter, you may want to consider alternative options - see below.
  • Where possible, regularly check your pipes, toilets, sinks, baths and showers for signs of a leak and repair any damaged or missing sealant. It is also worth turning the stopcok once every six months to help prevent it from seizing up.
  • You can use your water meter to check if there is a leak by recording the reading - if the meter reading is changing then that could be the sign of a leak.
  • Consider fitting a leak detection device or getting one fitted by a professional.
  • Regular checks also help, either by yourself or a friend or neighbour who you trust to check around the vacant home and identify any early signs of a leak such as damp patches or damp smells.
  • Check your lagging around the water tank and pipes is sufficient to help stop the water pipes from freezing.
  • In the winter months there will be alternative considerations. You might want to keep your heating on at a set time during the morning and evening to stop your pipes from freezing - you will need to ensure your system is no longer drained down. Also consider leaving your loft-hatch open so that warm air can circulate to the pipes in your roof.

Water damage discovered 

If you’ve discovered water damage, then you’ll need to act quickly. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Should you discover a leak then the first thing to do is switch off the stopcock and help reduce the damage that it has caused
  • If there are any drips, place a bucket or container under them, again to help reduce any further damage
  • If it is safe to do so and you feel is necessary, turn off your electrical supply
  • Call out a plumber if you can’t easily locate the source of the leak
  • Look for other ways in which you can reduce the effects of the leak by moving contents and personal effects out of the home or to undamaged areas of the property.
  • Contact your insurer and they will guide you through the claims process. Do not get rid of any damaged items before the claim has been assessed and, if possible, take photos of the damage caused.

At Guardcover, we understand that protecting your unoccupied property with the right insurance is highly important. Guardcover has been protecting unoccupied properties for more than 20 years. We offer a policy that can provide you with a variety of cover terms, and options to suit your budget. If your empty property is damaged by a flood or escape of water, you can be safe in the knowledge that Guardcover will have you and your unoccupied property covered.