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                                                                                                                                                                 Last updated 2 January, 2014 > site map > are your drains insured                                                    

Are Your Drains Insured ?

Many of the defects found on domestic drainage systems are covered by your bricks and mortar insurance policy, tree root ingress, damage that results from vehicular movement or a drain defect that can be classed as accidental damage should be covered. There has however been a definite shift in attitude from UK insurance companies with regard to what they will and will not pay out for when it comes to your underground drainage system since the country went down the pan (pun intended) in 2008/09

So What's Changed ?..... Devils Advocate.........

There is obviously not a lot of money about so i suppose it is only natural that the big companies tighten their belts, but perhaps we the consumers, the insured are also to blame to some degree !

If like me you are striding towards your prime (mid 40s) the likely hood is that your parents and grand parents had the same insurer for pretty much their entire working life, if an insurance claim was ever made then up went the premium and the insurers were odds on to win their money back over the next few years.

In this exciting modern age we shop on comparison sites to get the best deal and then once a claim is made off we pop looking for another deal before our insurer can up the premium, so can we really expect the same level of cover ?.

Well clearly yes if that's what the insurance policy says you are covered for but another by-product of the way we shop on-line is that you are now encouraged to build your own insurance policy, you can choose your policy excess and are invited to tick numerous boxes as applicable, if you tick the wrong box or perversely if you don't tick the right box you can find yourself uninsured for what would of previously been a standard item on any bricks and mortar insurance policy.

The Chicken & Egg Argument - Tree Root Ingress In Drainage Systems

If there has been one claim that was pretty much guaranteed over the last 30+ years it has been tree roots entering the drainage system, most policy`s (bricks & mortar) would read along the lines of covering any sealed service pipes and this included you drainage system. So if you had root ingress you made a claim, the drain was repaired and then without fail up went your premium.

To counter the sealed service pipe clause back in the 1980`s we would get the odd loss adjuster turning up on site to check that the root damaged pipes were jointed using sand & cement, very occasionally pipe joints would be sealed using only clay If this was the case your claim would be thrown out.

In December 08 i was told by a loss adjuster from a national outfit that their new directive was that tree roots will only enter a defective or poorly constructed drainage system, this i believe was based on advice from an arboriculturist.

Anybody who has worked in the drainage game will know that the finest of tree roots will find their way between the vitrified clay collar of a pipe and the sand and cement that form its joint and once inside the roots will expand. I have excavated and repaired hundreds of systems where the joint was intact, where no fractures or breaks were found on the clay pipe work yet the joint was full or roots.

Understaffed Or Just Can`t Be Bothered ?

One guy got in touch to say that a reputable and national operator carried out extensive investigation works and found his system to be full of roots, they supplied a report & DVD and told him the cost of repair would be in excess of £3.000. They then quite rightly advised he pass his report onto his insurer`s as he would be covered for the repairs under accidental damage.

Five weeks later the guy rings his insurers to find how his claim is progressing only to be told over the phone that tree root ingress is not an insurable claim, the next day he receives his report and DVD back through the post. There was however no letter from his insurers explaining why his claim was being knocked back, there was no letter full stop not even a compliment slip.

The Pitch Fibre Claim

Whether pitch fibre is an insured underground drainage material has always been a hot potato to the point where i have stopped second guessing whether a claim will go through or not, for a while a couple of ombudsman rulings would seem to indicate that even though it is a poor material it is open to accidental damage from external pressure, ground water ingress etc.

So in January 2009 a guy approaches his insurance company with a pitch fibre drainage problem, they send out their preferred contractor to survey the system and then tell him that he is not covered for the repair because the deformation to the pipe work is less than 15%.

Once again the goal posts have moved for the insured, yes you have a defective insured pipe but it is not defective enough !. Surely the fact that the poor home owner has got to the point that his drain requires a camera pushing through it would be enough, 5% deformation if at the base of a pipe is more than enough to cause problems.

Playing The Numbers Game ?

So what has changed ? you would have to have been living under a rock not to realise that there is not a lot of money around at the moment and the insurance companies just like the banks seem to be holding onto ours for as long as they can.

I suspect that they are playing a numbers game, if they knock back an additional 20% of drainage claims compared to last year and only 50% of those people push their claim to the next level of the complaints procedure and manage to get the decision reversed they are still saving major money.

Now if this is a game being played across the board on all types of claims nationwide the savings will be huge. Drains will block and require repair whether the country is in a boom or bust, like wise cars will collide with walls and crash into each other but having spoken to a couple of body repair specialists since christmas it would seem that the insurance side of their business has also dried up.

The upshot is that people who are entitled to make a valid claim are not getting anything like the service they are paying for, the reverse side is that independent drainage contractors who are already struggling to hang onto any kind of insurance based works have even less chance of doing so.

In theory the less work going through the insurance companies should put more work into the open market for contractors to bid for, but when faced with £3.000 of root damaged pipe work repairs homeowners will have the system root cut and occasionally jetted clear rather than spend that kind of money in the current climate. This only puts off the inevitable repairs that will eventually be undertaken at a much higher cost, in the mean time i fear many small and medium sized contractors are in for a very hard year or two.

Additional & Utility Company Insurance Policy`s

Many of the utility companies offer insurance cover on your drains for an additional fee on top of your monthly or annual payments, whether this is good value for money or not is open to question.

Firstly if you have a simple blockage due to grease and fat in your kitchen gully or little johnny flushing his action man down the toilet it is going to cost you somewhere in the region of £35 to £70 to get it cleared, many of the utility insurance policy's offer up to three clearances a year which sounds good value but if you are having three blockages a year there is a problem that needs looking at.

So the next stage of the process would be to have some investigation works carried out, a drain camera inspection or possibly an exploratory excavation. I know for a fact that a couple of these policy`s allow the investigating contractor to do £400/500 worth of investigation works and then guess what, they find root ingress or fractured pipes and tell the home owner to contact their bricks and mortar insurer and make a claim.

I have three problems with this, firstly the system is open to abuse because the contractor could well know within the first ten minutes that the problem is due to root ingress but the job gets dragged out and you can bet an invoice goes in for the allotted £400/500 investigation allowance, secondly there is no onus on the investigating contractor to get a result, all they have to do is hang around on site for 5/6 hours and tell you its a big problem and you had better look at your bricks and mortar insurance policy, and finally these policy's tend to state that you can have x amount of repairs in any one year up to a predetermined amount knowing full well that anything major will be covered by an insurance policy you already have.

Now i would not for one minute suggest that these policies are a waste of money because i don't have all the facts to hand and i can`t afford the legal bills, if your policy also covers burst water pipe repair and a boiler service then you could be quid's in but it is always worth reading the terms and conditions.

related pages - who's drain is it anyway ?
  why drains block
  need advice on a drainage insurance claim ?
  find a contractor



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