Water Damage Insurance Claims Are Still Increasing

Water Damage Insurance Claims Are Still Increasing

Water damage insurance claims are an issue we deal with every week. We are continually called upon to deal with insurance companies or assessors on behalf of clients when they have sustained water damage to their homes.

With COVID-19 lockdowns keeping a large proportion of Australians at home, research from QBE Insurance indicates water damage insurance claims remain at high levels.

New research from QBE Insurance revealed that 77% of people who experienced water damage were home at the time of the incident, unravelling misconceptions that flooding mainly occurs when the house is unoccupied.

The QBE Insurance research statistics reveal that:

  • 77% of claimants impacted by water damage were at home for the water damage incident.
  • Burst pipes, blocked pipes, damaged roofs and old plumbing are the main water damage culprits.

According to the research, internal water damage is typical, with 58% of survey respondents having experienced internal water damage themselves or know someone who has, or both.

This coincides with QBE claims data, which found water damage incidents account for almost a quarter (24%) of all home insurance claims. Water damage insurance claims are one of QBE’s most regular home insurance claims. An average claim is $5,000, and more severe water damage claims commonly reaching over half a million dollars.

“Preparedness and prevention are key to limiting the potential damage caused by internal water damage,” says Arron Mann, General Manager, Short Tail Claims at QBE.

“Water damage can happen whether a household member is at home or not being home more often, as many of us are right now, can increase the pressure on our plumbing and risk to our homes. However, this kind of damage can also be sudden and severe regardless of whether you’re home or not, which is why prevention and knowing what to do when something goes awry are so valuable.”

Despite 53% of research respondents saying their first response to water damage would be turning off the water main, 1 in 5 Australians (21%) don’t know where their water main is, and worryingly, 1 in 5 (18%) also don’t know how to turn it off.

The QBE research also revealed that almost 30% of Australians don’t know what home maintenance tasks can prevent water damage in their homes, with 16% not knowing that home maintenance can prevent it in the first place. Cost is also a factor, with 21% not undertaking any home maintenance because it’s too expensive, while 8% say they don’t have the time.

“Sometimes, the difference between no damage and severe damage can be in how quickly a householder responds. Yet concerningly, many people are unaware that much of this damage – and the stress and cost that comes with it – is often preventable,” says Arron Mann.

The best way to avoid water damage insurance claims is by regular maintenance from Whywait Plumbing. Now this will not prevent every possible water leak scenario from happening, but it will demonstrate to the insurance company that you have been undertaking regular maintenance if claim difficulties occur.

At Whywait Plumbing, we see instances every day of water damage that has occurred through the failure to maintain your home regularly. That is why we recommend all our clients to become a Service Partner and enjoy the VIP benefits of having a Service Partner Plan to maintain your most valuable asset, your home, proactively.

Detecting COVID-19 in Your Wastewater Drain

Detecting COVID-19 in Your Wastewater Drain

Your wastewater is one of the key sources used to identify the presence of the COVID-19 virus in your local community because plumbing is public health

COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for every level of government in Australia. The pandemic has reiterated that plumbing is all about public health. With vaccination rates being hailed as our pathway back to the new normality, we need politicians and bureaucrats to embrace that plumbing protects the entire community and individually plumbers preserve the nation’s health.

A pivotal component in managing COVID-19 is establishing where transmission of the virus occurs. Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, the identification of exposure sites by health authorities and the requirement for people who were at the same areas during the same time to monitor for symptoms or get tested themselves have been a ceaseless part of the public health response.

Wastewater testing has been crucial for health departments to identify where COVID-19 may be present in the community to help to stop the spread.

Wastewater or the used water from toilets, sinks, showers, baths, basins and dishwashers are analysed and tested for fragments of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Fragments of the virus potentially enter the wastewater system through people who have or have recently had COVID-19. People shed the virus fragments through toilet paper, used tissues, off their hands and skin or in faeces. This shedding can continue for weeks after a person is infectious.

“The COVID-19 virus, SARS-Cov-2, can enter wastewater infrastructure through any of those means. However, it is likely to enter wastewater principally from faecal and respiratory shedding. Shed virus is then detected by analysing the wastewater using analytical methods that are specific for SARS-CoV-2,” says Dr Nick Crosbie, Recycled Water and IWM Research Manager at Melbourne Water.

“Wastewater monitoring is equivalent to obtaining and analysing a large community-based composite sample of faeces, saliva, vomit, sputum, urine, shed skin and other material shed during personal cleansing, washing, bathing, and excreting.”

Throughout Australia, wastewater samples are taken from wastewater treatment plants, regional wastewater treatment plants and multiple locations throughout any metropolitan sewerage system.

Dr Crosbie describes surveillance as dynamic, adjusting it to meet changing needs such as surge testing during outbreaks.

“Samples are obtained by ‘grab sampling’, auto-sampling, and by the deployment of so-called ‘passive samplers’ which accumulate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the period of their deployment. Between a few 100 to more than 1,000 samples are collected and processed in a seven-day period. The samples are analysed of the passive samplers with presumptive detections confirmed by third-party analysis.”

Wastewater testing has come to public prominence during the pandemic, although it has been regularly undertaken worldwide to monitor poliovirus, norovirus and adenovirus for close to twenty years.

Dr Crosbie says the public identification of locations in which viral fragments are identified in wastewater – announced by the Department of Health regularly, including sending text messages to people in affected postcodes – allows health authorities to target their responses.

“Information can be used by health departments to focus their investigations further and to encourage an increase in local clinical testing rates,” he says.

The role of plumbers in effective wastewater testing is critical. The provision of safe and effective plumbing and sanitation illustrates how plumbers contribute to strengthening public health. Master Plumbers CEO Peter Daly is unequivocal in stating that “Plumbers play a vital role in developing, maintaining and promoting public health among the community. Plumbers prevent against disease and illness stemming from poor plumbing and sanitation and against the dangers of unsafe gas appliances, some of which can be deadly. Our day to day work in plumbing and sanitation also supports the overall wastewater testing process to play a big role in the COVID-19 response.”

Dr Crosbie agrees, “the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program is a huge team effort between people working in the plumbing industry, water industry, and the laboratory and health sectors,” he says.

Dr Crosbie understands that plumbing is public health, “More generally, the safe operation of our water and wastewater infrastructure ensures that the community do not suffer from significant health effects from water and wastewater-borne diseases.”

The World Health Organisation and leading doctors state that the world’s most significant medical milestone since 1840 was sanitation. Despite the tremendous medical breakthroughs and scientific advances, the seemingly mundane advance of reliable sewage and reliable, clean water supply is the most significant medical advance over the last 200 years.

How much does a burst pipe add to your Gold Coast water bill?

How much does a burst pipe add to your Gold Coast water bill?

Your Gold Coast water bill issued by the City of Gold Coast as a Water and Sewerage Rate Notice arrives every three months. Currently, every water meter is manually read every three months, with your Gold Coast water bill coming soon after. The cost of Gold Coast water is set every year as part of the budget process with the detailed current water pricing for 2021-22 available from Gold Coast Water.

What are the costs of your Gold Coast water bill?

For most homeowners who use around the average daily water usage of 451 litres, the highest costs in the quarterly Gold Coast water bill are their sewerage and water access service charges. If you look closely at your water bill, you can see that you have the following access charges:

Residential Charges Cost
Sewerage access charge per quarter

$181.03

Water access charge per quarter

$53.02

Total Access Charges per Quarter

$234.05

The usage charges per kilolitre as measured by your water meter are made up of council charges and Queensland Government charges as below:

Residential Charges Cost

City of Gold Coast water per kilolitre

$1.117

Queensland Government water per kilolitre

$3.231

Total Cost of Water per Kilolitre

$4.348

In reality, even if you did not use one drop of water, you would still pay for water and sewerage access service charges of $234.05 every quarter or $936.20 every year.

Our experience is that the average water use of 451 litres or 0.451kL per property shown on Gold Coast water bills is not an accurate guide to your water use.

Most homes with more than one occupant will use 1-2 kL every day. However, remember your water usage will vary every day based on the number of occupants at home each day and their water use behaviours. That is why we recommend you read your water meter weekly, as that will give you a better guide about your average consumption and alert you to a potential water leak.

The actual cost of water dripping from a tap

What will cause your water usage charges to blow out is having leaking water that you are unaware of. Leaking taps and toilets are frequently overlooked and put off to another day. A dripping tap that drips one drop every second will use 40 litres of water a day. The reality is that it becomes 280 litres a week and then 1214 litres a month, and then 14560 litres a year. This is all water charged for on your Gold Coast water bill that you never utilised for any practical purpose.

If we translate the litres wasted to the cost of water, then the numbers become real very quickly.

Cost of a Dripping Tap at 1 drip per second Residential Cost at $4.348 per kL or 1000 litres Business Cost at $8.909 per kL or 1000 litres

1.66 litres per hour

$0.007

$0.015

40 litres per day

$0.174

$0.356

280 litres per week

$1.217

$2.495

1214 litres per month

$5.278

$10.816

14560 litres per year

$63.307

$129.715

The actual cost of a leaking underground water main

You can visually see a dripping tap or running toilet, but the real killer to your Gold Coast water bill is your underground water main pipe leaking. For residential users, these are usually leaking polypipe water mains that were never installed correctly when the house was built. Only occasionally is a water leak apparent and bubbling to the ground. Most of the time, they are a silent Gold Coast water bill killer leaking 24/7 undetected.

There is no accurate average for any leaking water main supply pipe because it depends on the type of break in the pipe, what the pipe size is and what the incoming water pressure is.

Recently we had a client with a small leak where we have 24/7 electronic water monitoring installed that is leaking on average of 45 litres per hour, so we use that as a basis for what leaking water main will cost on a Gold Coast water bill.

Cost of a leaking underground water main at 45 litres per hour Residential Cost at $4.348 per kL or 1000 litres Business Cost at $8.909 per kL or 1000 litres
45 litres per hour

$0.196

$0.401

1080 litres per day

$4.696

$9.622

7560 litres per week

$32.87

$67.352

33480 litres per month

$145.57

$298.731

401760 litres per year

$1746.85

$3579.280

A water leak at 45 litres per minute is only a relatively small leak in larger pipes. It is unlikely to show up as bubbling at the ground unless it is directly under the grass in a shallow trench. Even looking at your water meter, it will not be evident unless you are testing your water use at the meter by checking for a water leak.

How much does a leak cost per litre?

We have always recommended that you test your water usage through your water meter every month. By having comparable figures, you will soon ascertain whether you have a leaking pipe.

We have always recommended that you install an AquaTrip water leak detection system after your water meter. An AquaTrip Water Leak detection system with an integrated automatic shutoff valve supplied and installed by Whywait Plumbing is a permanently installed leak detection protection system that quietly protects against leaks 24/7. It is a one time only insurance payment.

With our modern leak detection methods, it’s an easier task to locate a leak. However, unless you have an AquaTrip installed or use our 24/7 water monitoring service, you will still pay for a large amount of lost water before you become aware of the water leak.

If you think you have a water leak contact us because every litre that you lose is costing you $0.004348 for residential properties or $0.008909 for businesses on your Gold Coast water bill. If you naively feel that is inconsequential, we have just rectified a leak for a commercial business client in a 50mm underground polypipe water main that was leaking 106 kL every day, which is 106000 litres every 24 hours. This leak cost $944.354 every day.

Is bacteria & mould in your showerhead making you sick?

Is bacteria & mould in your showerhead making you sick?

The wet and warm environment of your shower head is a prime real estate for germs, bacteria & mould

Bacteria in your showerhead is reality. Your showerhead is prime real estate for sediment build-up from fine particles in the water, bacteria and mould.

You no doubt think that stepping into your shower will wash away dirt and germs in the showerhead. However, studies from the University of Colorado, NYU Langone Medical Center and Manchester University have concluded that bacteria thrive inside and outside showerheads. Furthermore, they have found showerheads have the potential to harbour more bacteria than your toilet.

 We live surrounded by bacteria, some being beneficial, some being harmless, and a few are potentially lethal. These potentially lethal bacteria in a showerhead may cause lung infections, yet few of us consider the implications of bacteria in your showerhead.

Mycobacteria are found in abundance in showerheads

All the studies concluded that bacteria in your showerhead is real. These bacteria can cause illness live in our showerheads. Therefore, it’s important to understand how people can be exposed to them.

The most likely cause of lung infection that you can get from a showerhead is mycobacteria.

Mycobacteria is a bacteria distantly related to bacteria that cause tuberculosis and leprosy. It is part of rapidly growing mycobacteria and is typically found in water, soil, and dust.

Dr Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, confirmed that bacteria grow in moist wet places like showerheads. “This is a reminder to clean your showerhead, which nobody does,” he said, though “most of us are likely to tolerate mycobacteria and not get sick from it.”

Bacteria in showerheads won’t cause an outbreak of lung infections. However, Dr Siegal suggested people who are run down or who have a compromised immune system or a chronic condition may be vulnerable. Dr Siegal said bacteria also live on your toothbrush and in your basin, and on any moist surface to put it in perspective,

Dr Siegel recommends cleaning your showerhead every week or two with a disinfectant that contains ammonia to be sure you kill all the germs nesting there. “Add your showerhead to the list of things in the bathroom that need cleaning,” he said.

What is mycobacteria bacteria in your showerhead?

As Dr Siegal pointed out, you are unlikely to get sick with mycobacteria. Infections with atypical mycobacteria in Australia occur at a rate of 1.8 cases per 100,000 population.

In Queensland, all cases of mycobacterial infection are notifiable under the Queensland Public Health Act.

The Australian Government Department of Health undertook the last national survey on mycobacteria in 2000. The main sites of infection are identified in the respiratory tract, soft tissue, pulmonary and lymphatics. 

To read the mycobacteria survey for consumers, click here.

 

Bacteria that could be found in your showerhead

Manchester University has conducted studies into the condition of the inside of showerheads. There were multiple bacteria and fungi found in the showerheads that they tested which were:

The solution is to clean your showerhead regularly

As Dr Siegal recommended, you should regularly clean your showerhead, which doesn’t mean just the parts you can see. While infection rates are low, it makes sense to keep your showerhead clean – particularly if you have recently been ill, or are run down or are more prone to infection due to a compromised immune system.

Cleaning your showerhead means removing it from its arm or hose and then dismantling it to clean both inside and out to remove any scale, debris or bacteria that potentially is lurking unseen inside the showerhead itself.

Few of us have ever contemplated the simple act of jumping into the shower in the morning to wake you up or to leave you feeling relaxed and fresh last thing at night before getting into bed is potentially a health risk.

Should you replace your showerhead regularly?

According to some “experts”, Bacteria in your showerhead is so much of a risk you should replace your showerhead every six months.

This is pointless as good quality showerheads that are cleaned and maintained will last ten years plus. Imagine the cost of having new showerheads installed every six months, especially if you have three bathrooms, all with showers.

The range of modern showerheads available is extensive with most of the quality brands from manufacturers coming with full 2-5 year warranties.

In South-East Queensland, we don’t have hard water that destroys plumbing fixtures. This means cleaning your showerhead regularly is all that is required.

How to clean a showerhead?

Bacteria in your showerhead is controllable by cleaning a showerhead properly. Despite the urban myths you hear, bleach will not clean your showerhead.

The reality is, as the research clearly indicates that keeping your showerhead clean could mean the difference between good health and bad health, so reduce the potential risk and keep your showerhead clean with this simple method.

Here’s why you should always close the toilet seat lid before you flush

Here’s why you should always close the toilet seat lid before you flush

Why is the operative word in toilet seat arguments

As we’ve all become aware in the last year hygiene is the foundation of health.

Toilet hygiene has become a focus in the home and at work. The simple toilet seat has been focused on as never before.

Arguments over the toilet seat revolve around:

  • why can’t I leave the toilet seat up
  • why should I put the toilet seat down
  • why do I need to close the toilet seat
  • why do toilet seats have a lid

The answer to all these “whys” is because of basic personal hygiene and overall community hygiene.

Harpic photos reveal the danger of not closing the toilet seat lid before flushing

Over the years, I’ve been asked countless times why do toilet seats have lids. Generally, my answers have centred around because it’s called into law in the Plumbing and Drainage Act, which satisfied most people.

However, now I can finally answer all the questions about toilet lids.

I can better answer that perennial question of why you should always close the toilet seat lid before flushing.

The answer is simple. The lid is there for good hygiene to protect your health and community health.

I can answer these questions thanks to Harpic the #1 selling toilet cleaner in Australia and forty other countries worldwide.

Harpic commissioned a study to illustrate the dangers we all face by not closing the toilet seat when we flush. Harpic used sophisticated high-speed specialist camera technology to capture a fireworks display of thousands of tiny aerosol droplets being catapulted into the bathroom, contaminating all surfaces up to two meters away. Not only did the droplets spread over a wide area of the bathroom, but they also stayed airborne for up to a minute as they are tiny.

The photos above and below illustrate these fireworks displays graphically illustrating how far into the air a flushing toilet catapults these aerosol droplets.

Flushed toilet water aerosol droplets can contain bacteria & viruses

These photos are of a single toilet flush. Imagine what your towels, facecloths, laundry, makeup and toothbrush look like after multiple toilet flushes with the seat up.

Water in a toilet bowl that has been exposed to harmful pathogens will remain contaminated despite clean water being flushed into the toilet pan multiple times. The contaminated aerosol droplets and particles are very fine and are more than capable of reaching your lower respiratory tract. This potentially can create infections.

If you touch any surface in your bathroom contaminated by the toilet bowl flushing of aerosol droplets you can risk infections if you have cuts or touch your mouth or nose.

 

Would you clean your teeth with a toothbrush sprayed with flushed toilet water?

Let’s face it. None of us would knowingly clean our teeth with a toothbrush that has been sprayed with contaminated toilet water. But the reality is over 50% of the population never close the toilet lid before flushing. 

Unhygienic bathrooms really are dangerous

As a spokesman for Harpic stated after their research was made public, “There has never been a more important time to take extra care around our homes. Although the risks associated with germ spread in unhygienic bathrooms are high, the solution to keeping them clean is simple. We hope our new #CloseTheLid campaign helps inspire people to make simple changes to their cleaning routine that can have long-lasting benefits to the health of the nation.”

The Harpic survey of 2000 respondents was undertaken in the UK, but I guarantee the results would apply equally to Australia.

When asked why they did not close the toilet seat lid when flushing the toilet were:

  • 47% said they were unaware of the danger in not closing the lid
  • 24% said they were afraid to touch the toilet seat lid
  • 15% said they forgot to close the toilet seat lid

Three simple solutions to bathroom hygiene

COVID-19 has been a huge motivation to increase bathroom hygiene with Harpic, suggesting the three steps below are a simple common sense approach for a more hygienic bathroom.

  • Always close the toilet seat lid when flushing the toilet to prevent germs that potentially contain bacteria and viruses spreading over your bathroom.
  • Ensure you clean your toilet bowl, toilet seat and cistern with a toilet cleaner that removes limescale, providing a home to germs and disinfecting the toilet to guarantee ultimate hygiene.
  • Always wear gloves when cleaning the toilet and wash your hands afterwards.

It’s simple just close the toilet seat lid every time you flush

Closing the toilet seat lid is simple hygiene that helps eliminate the potential spread of COVID-19, which we know is found in human waste.

Just remember when you flush with the toilet seat lid up the contaminated aerosol droplets spread up to two meters in all directions spraying you with the droplets as you redress for up to 35 seconds.

Teach your children always to shut the toilet seat for their health: your health and the health of the entire community.

How much should a plumbers call-out fee cost?

How much should a plumbers call-out fee cost?

What is a plumbers call-out fee?

A plumbers call-out fee is a set amount charged by a plumbing business to come to your home or business.

The call-out fee covers all of the costs incurred for the time it takes to arrive. The call-out fee covers employee costs, vehicle costs and business overhead costs.

Generally, for those businesses that charge call-out fees, the call-out fee only allows for arriving at your home or business. It does not allow for any investigation work of your plumbing problem.

What is a plumbing diagnostic evaluation fee?

Here at Whywait Plumbing, we do not charge a plumbers call-out fee to merely arrive at your home or business.

Since 1999 we have charged on every job we are called out to a diagnostic evaluation fee. This fee we require to be paid by credit card when you book your job in with us.

When you call us, we guarantee that we inform you of our initial upfront fault finding/investigation diagnostic evaluation fee and what that fee is.

Once you are happy to accept our diagnostic pricing, we’ll secure your booking by providing your credit card to cover the initial fault finding/investigation diagnostic evaluation fee.

What is the difference between a call-out fee & a diagnostic evaluation fee?

Plumbing companies that charge a call-out fee use it to cover the cost for the journey for a plumber to arrive at your home or business.

Plumbing companies that charge a diagnostic evaluation fee cover the initial journey cost plus the cost to inspect your plumbing problems, diagnose the cause of the problem and provide fully costed solutions.

No call-out fee plumbers

Some plumbing companies heavily advertise that they have a no call-out fee. It may sound good for budget-minded potential customers but…..I guarantee you will end up paying the plumbers call-out fee anyway.

Remember if something is FREE, it has no value to the plumbing business offering it or to the customer receiving it. No call-0ut fee plumbing businesses simply transfer the costs of getting to the job in their other costs plus a margin so either way you pay.

The perception that advertising a no-call out fee creates is that you are getting something for free, as they will be cheaper. Perception is never reality as no business can work for free.

Think about it, would you go to work for free?

What you should ask about a plumbers call-out fee?

Always ask on the phone what is their call-out fee and what does it include. Many plumbing businesses not only have a call-out fee but an additional minimum charge for their time.

Clear communication is paramount to avoiding disputes. Be very clear in your own mind exactly what the plumber will charge you to arrive at your home or business and investigate what work is required.

Why do call-out fees vary so much?

Contrary to popular urban myths, there is no such thing as a set rate or recommended rate or the going rate for a plumbers call-out fee.

Every plumbing business is not the same. Every plumbing business has different employee costs, overhead costs and productivity levels that are required to set a call-out fee or diagnostic evaluation fee. 

It is illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 for business to collude in setting prices. The Act aims to give all businesses a fair and competitive operating environment. It covers anti-competitive conduct, price-fixing, unconscionable conduct and numerous other issues, such as advertising. The Act also sets out consumers’ rights and responsibilities.

It is also illegal under the Act for there to be any set or recommended rates by master plumbers associations.

Other factors that influence call-out fees are the type of service required and the time of day and which day. Major variances will occur if you require plumbing service at night, on weekends or on public holidays.

So how much should a plumbers call-out fee be?

Reality is asking how much should a plumbers call-out fee be is akin to asking how long a piece of string is.

Remember, there are no recommended call-out fee rates as every business has to determine what they charge.

As a rough guide in my experience, a basic plumbers call-out fee during normal weekday working hours will vary from $0 to $150 to simply arrive on the job. For an emergency plumbing call-out, the costs increase dramatically and you can expect to pay between $150 and $500.

I can only reiterate that you need to be very clear in your own mind exactly what the plumber will charge you to arrive at your home or business and investigate what work is required. 

Rights and responsibilities

Both the plumber and the customer have rights and responsibilities. Sadly there is a culture of mutual distrust between customers and plumbers with each being wary of being ripped off by the other.

Here at Whywait Plumbing, we aim to be always upfront with our pricing starting with our initial plumbers call-out fee or diagnostic fee. When we ask you to pay for that diagnostic fee upfront by credit card, we are both making a commitment from the beginning.

We guarantee and disclose our diagnostic fee up front and provide an upfront fixed price guarantee for all residential, domestic clients. There is no game playing, our clients are always informed of costs upfront, and there are never any hidden costs or nasty surprises.

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