Here at Whywait Plumbing, we frequently get a phone call asking does insurance cover water leaks? Every week we are called upon to deal with insurance companies or assessors on behalf of clients when they have sustained water damage to their home.
With water leaks just like everything else to do with insurance, there seem to be multiple grey areas with numerous interpretations. It is our experience we find every time we deal with an insurance company where the circumstances of the water leak are similar to previous we meet with a different response.
The product disclosure statement issued with your policy is where we find all the confusion starts. This is where the insurance company hopefully discloses what is covered by your policy. If you find the product disclosure statement confusing then call the insurance company to clarify what the coverage is that you are paying for. The more questions you ask, the more you will understand. Remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Also, remember insurance companies record all calls, so keep diary notes of when you called and who you spoke to. Better still send them an email confirming your phone call and what your understanding was of the answers you received. This creates an electronic paper trail that can be utilised at a later date.
Important Definitions & Clauses
There are three important definitions and clauses which appear to apply to the question does insurance cover water leaks:
- the “Water Damage Clauses” in the actual policy
- the definition of what is water damage
- the definition of what is gradual water damage
The Water Damage Clauses
The water damage clauses you should always read carefully and ensure you understand. Generally, it will have a section with several clauses and subclauses in the policy which will cover water damage and what you can claim for if you make a water damage claim on your home.
As a rule, it will state precisely what water damage your insurance policy covers and what is excluded. The exclusions are what you need to be aware of as often they will include an all-encompassing negligence clause coupled with a failure to maintain your home in good repair. If you have these general all-encompassing clauses, ask your insurance company what they precisely mean as we’ve seen these clauses used to deny coverage where it was in a very grey area and open to interpretation in their favour.
The Definition of Water Damage
Water damage can occur in so many ways that it’s generally not well defined in your insurance policy. In our experience, insurance companies specify water damage in two ways:
- accidental or sudden water damage
- gradual water damage
We’ve found that instances such as burst pipes, burst taps, burst valves, overflowing sewerage, overflowing stormwater and storm damage are covered by most insurance policies. This is because it was a sudden event that you could not have prevented.
In contrast, the damage caused by slow plumbing leaks in pipes, showers, toilets, gutters and roofs not damaged by a storm is not covered as they are classified as gradual water damage.
The Definition of Gradual Water Damage
Essentially gradual water damage is the insurance policy get out of jail free card. It is water damage they assess has occurred gradually over time. Frequently the water damage was visible to the trained eye but invisible to you as it covers the rotting of timber under the paint or mould in the walls, floor or ceiling. Essentially the insurance company will conclude you were negligent in not maintaining your home.
Examples of gradual water damage we frequently see are:
- seepage from leaking taps into cupboards
- leaking shower trays
- leaking shower taps
- leaking toilet cisterns
- leaking drain pipes
- rusted out sections in gutters and roof
The water damage from many of these occurrences is often not covered by your insurance policy as it will be concluded you failed to keep your home in good repair through regular and reasonable maintenance.
Water Leak Prevention
The best way to avoid an unsuccessful water leak claim is regular maintenance by Whywait Plumbing. Now this will not prevent every possible water leak scenario happening, but it will demonstrate to the insurance company that you have been undertaking regular maintenance.
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.
Most property owners on the Gold Coast have just received their City of Gold Coast Water and Sewerage Rate Notice for January. Under Queensland law, you must receive a quarterly water bill. The City of Gold Coast issues their water bills in January, April, July and October.
Whenever water bills arrive, we get clients asking us why their Gold Coast water bill is always out of date. From experience, we can guarantee the average Gold Coast Water bill is still out of date. For example, most water bills issued in January were for water that was used between July and October. This is due to the contractors who read each water meter having set routes and timelines to read your meter so yes your usage charges are always at least two months out of date. This is why we suggest you monitor your water meter weekly and read how to do it on our page “How To Read Your Water Meter”.
For most homeowners who use around the average daily water usage of 451 litres, the highest costs in the quarterly water bill are their sewerage and water services charges. If you look closely at your water bill you can see that you have the following charges:
- Sewerage service charges – sewerage access $181.03 per quarter
- Water service charges – water access $53.02 per quarter
- Gold Coast Water – water usage per kilolitre $1.09
- Queensland Government – water usage per kilolitre $2.91
In reality, even if you used no water, you would still pay for service charges of $234.05 every quarter or $936.20 every year.
Average water use of 451 litres or 0.451kL per property is not an accurate guide to your water use. In our experience, most homes with more than one occupant will use 1-2 kL every day. 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 but will also alert you to a potential water leak.
If you suspect a water leak, call Whywait Plumbing and ask for our leak detection service.
Dissolved lead in your drinking water is a reality in Australia. Lead is used across a wide range of plumbing products that are installed in homes and buildings. The most common products lead is used in is brass fittings and taps.
Some brass plumbing fittings allow the lead to dissolve into the drinking water where the water has been unused for long periods. This process is more pronounced in your hot water system where the heating of the water to 70 degrees results in an increase in all dissolved metals in the water, particularly lead. This is why you should always use only cold water for drinking and cooking.
If your water supply is sourced from a rainwater tank, you should also be aware that the increased acidity of rainwater may also increase the level of dissolved metals and lead from brass plumbing fittings.
As we have virtually no lead pipes circulating water in Australia in homes and buildings, it is rare for Australians to have elevated blood lead levels that are related to dissolved lead exposure from drinking water. However, at home, you can reduce your exposure to lead in your drinking water by:
- Always using the water from the cold tap for drinking and cooking
- First thing every morning it’s good practice to flush the cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for 30 seconds to draw fresh water through the tap rather than using the water that has been sitting there all night
- If a home or building has been unoccupied for an extended period, then it’s good practice to flush all cold water taps used for drinking and cooking for at least 3 minutes to flush out dissolved metals. If you are in public parks and use a water bubbler or tap it is good practice to flush the water for 30 seconds, especially if it’s not heavily used.
There is no need to have your water tested for lead. What we do recommend is that you follow the suggestions above to flush dissolved metals such as lead, copper and nickel from your drinking water.
Wondering why your water bill is so high?
With the Gold Coast City Council recently posting out the quarterly Water and Sewerage Rate Notices we have noticed a spike in the number of calls for leaking water pipes.
A common theme is that the owners have been completely unaware that they have had a hidden water leak and only discovered the problem when they opened their bill, which unfortunately for some, contained a nasty shock.
Pipes Can Leak Without Any Outward Signs
The pure nature of plumbing, with pipes hidden underground or in walls, it often means that pipes can leak with no outward signs, especially in areas with sandy soil. Couple this with the fact that the bills issued in early July are for water consumed between January and April, it is easy to see how charges can accumulate as a pipe could potentially leak undetected for a period of three months between billing cycles.
A pipe could potentially leak undetected for 3 months or more, between water rate billing cycles
How Well Was Your House Constructed
Unfortunately, as a home owner, there is little you can do to prevent leaks from the water meter to the house. Basically it gets down to how well it was installed when the house was built.
In our forty plus years of experience we have found that if a pipe is well protected in a bed of sand there are few problems. However if there are items such as pieces of tiles, small rocks or other building debris then the chances are you will have problems over time and in some instances repeated leaks.
An interesting fact is the incidents of water leaks increase when we have cycles of rain followed by dry spells and is likely caused by ground movement allowing any sharp or rough objects adjacent to the pipes to rub against its side with the potential to create a split or hole in the pipe.
Monitor Your Water Usage
As a home owner the most effective way of detecting a concealed leak is to monitor your water usage, this is especially important if you have experienced a previous leak.
Your bill will have a daily average usage calculated for you so by reading the meter you should be able to pick up any increase.
At Whywait Plumbing we recommend reading your water meter monthly.
Set a reminder for the first of each month, however if you have had previous leaks you may wish to do this more frequently.
If you suspect you may have a leak then doing an overnight meter check is a good way to confirm, however it is best to turn the water off to the cisterns in case someone gets up during the night and flushes the toilet and remember not to turn the dishwasher on before going to bed. Not sure how to read your water meter? We tell you exactly what to do! Click here for instructions.
Consider A Leak Detection System
If you would prefer not to have the hassle of monitoring your households water usage then it is worth considering purchasing one of the Leak Detection Systems available on the market. We recommend Aquatrip a programmable Leak Detection System with an automatic shutoff valve.
Aquatrip is easily fitted on your main incoming water pipe, and acts as a Water Safety Trip Switch. It is designed to detect the difference between your normal water use and a leak and will shut off the water if a leak is detected or a tap, hose or appliance is left running.
If you suspect you have a leak or to find out more about the Aquatrip give our office a call to speak with one of our friendly staff.
Gold Coast council water rates are about to increase again. For both homeowners and business owners, this could be a double whammy when you couple this with the increases in power bills in recent years.
The Increases are likely to continue in coming years even though the City of Gold Coast has not increased its portion of your water bill at all for three years. Bulk water charges for the City of Gold Coast are recommended to increase by the Queensland Competition Authority a further $12 a year for the next two years.
The City of Gold Coast has now finalised the 2018-19 budget. Your Gold Coast council water rates charges will not increase on the retail and distribution component of the water and sewerage charges from the last financial year.
However, the significant portion of your water cost which is Queensland Government’s bulk water price will increase in line with the recommendations by the Queensland Competition Authority. The bulk water price will increase by 2.5% from $2.74 per kilolitre to $2.91 per kilolitre.
Contrary to some urban myths City of Gold Coast no longer owns Hinze Dam and the desalination plant. Gold Coast Water buys the water that you use through your meter from Seqwater owned by the Queensland Government. The price paid for the bulk water is itemised in your water bill.
Essentially the bulk water charges levied by the Queensland Government makes up the bulk of your water bill.
These charges are still reflecting the poor planning from 20 years ago that resulted in the multi-billion dollar water grid construction in 2007-08 which resulted in supply pipes connecting all of South-East Queensland being built. To a large extent, the pipe grid was constructed without dams being built and to lesser extent dams constructed without pipes which also resulted in the construction of the seldom-used Tugun desalination plant.
For 2018-19 your Gold Coast council water rates will increase on 1 July for your water and sewerage which will comprise of the following charges:
- Queensland Government bulk water charge $2.91 per k/L
- City of Gold Coast distribution $1.09 per k/L
- Total water consumption charge $4.00 per k/L
The water and sewerage access charges will remain the same as in previous years being:
- water access charge of $212.08 per year
- sewerage access charge of $724.12 per year.
Currently, water charges are relatively stable, but significant problems are looming. Long term planning is required to address the issues of aging infrastructure and their maintenance costs which will impact Gold Coast council water rates.
Infrastructure Australia in a major report has predicted water bills will go the way of power bills increasing by at least $50 every year. They predict today’s average annual water bill of $1200 will increase to $2500 within 20 years.
The report correctly says we need to start planning now as our dams are relatively full which gives us the rare opportunity of “….clear thinking and long-term planning to meet our future needs.”
As we all know from the water management supply crisis of 2007-09 South East Queensland can be adversely effected quickly with a combination of natural disasters, poor planning and below average rainfall.
Very simply if we don’t start long-term planning now for planning our future water needs the drastic increases in water bills will cripple family and business budgets in the same way power bills are now.
A combination of disposable wipes, paper towels and toilet paper blocking a drain because they were unable to break down in water.
Plumbing urban myths abound these days with social media and media sensationalism.
For the plumbing technicians at Whywait it’s frequently hard to get clients to understand factual information because they have Googled their problem and found what is, in reality, a plumbing urban myth that seems to fit.
Unfortunately, plumbing urban myths abound and below are a few popular myths and the real facts:
- Myth – disposable baby, kitchen or bathroom wipes and paper towels can be flushed down a toilet. Fact – The photo above is a pipe full of disposable wipes, paper towels and toilet paper that shows they don’t break down and degrade like toilet paper but pile up inside the drain and block your entire sewer drainage system.
- Myth – loud banging noises in a hot water service are a warning sign that it is about to burst and leak. Fact – unfortunately, there are no real warning signs that a hot water service is about to start leaking. If you do hear banging or rumbling noises coming from the actual storage tank it indicates that the loose minerals in the sediment in the bottom of the tank are causing air bubbles during the heating cycle and that in reality, your hot water service needs a 5 yearly service that includes flushing the tank of sediment.
- Myth – Thomas Crapper invented the toilet. Fact – No he did not invent it but made it work better with the flushing mechanism.
- Myth – Water flushes in a toilet clockwise in Australia in the southern hemisphere but anti-clockwise in Germany in the northern hemisphere. Fact – No the actual design of the toilet bowl dictates which direction water flushes as such a small amount of water is not affected by the Coriolis Effect.
Myths are often fun but the reality is plumbing urban myths can be dangerous if taken as factual which is why plumbing problems should always be diagnosed and repaired by a licensed plumbing contractor.