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Escape of water now greater risk than burglary

In 1970 only 30% of UK homes were fitted with central heating, today this figure is closer to 95%.

In addition, more of us have plumbed-in white goods, such as dishwashers, washing machines and fridges with icemakers that require their own plumbing system.

So with more appliances and "wet" areas in our homes comes a greater risk of water leaks and water damage.

In addition, the UK has experienced some of the most bitterly cold winters in recent years. This has resulted in an increase in water pipes freezing and then bursting, especially if preventive measures have not been taken.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) reported that the cost to the insurance industry from an Escape of Water was a colossal £730million in 2010. This is nearly double the cost of burglary claims over the same period, which amounted to £370million.

With over 370,000 people making an insurance claim for damage from an Escape of Water, the average claim cost was just under £2000.

Figures for the repair costs to the UK insurance industry for damage caused by water leaks in the home last year were nearly double the cost of burglary claims. So an Escape of Water is now a higher potential risk to UK homes than the risk of burglary.

Legal & General said the most common source of water damage in UK homes was a result of a leak from plumbing in an upstairs bathroom.

However, it is the kitchen that is most likely to be affected, as they are often positioned below a bathroom. The build-up of water can bring a ceiling down causing extensive damage to kitchen units and appliances below.

Although all properties are at risk, 87% of the Escape of Water claims Legal & General receive are from those living in detached houses, semi-detached houses and terraced houses. Often it is the case that these properties have been fitted with new plumbing after the initial build has been completed, for example, the addition of an en-suite bathroom. Under-floor heating can also add additional risk, as can open-plan layouts where a leak can spread from room to room.

Malcolm Cooper, Director for Legal & General’s general insurance business said: "Unfortunately, too many people are not aware of the distress and damage that an Escape of Water can cause.

"We are aware of other risks to our home, such as burglary, flood and fire, but a water leak is something homeowners don’t think they need to worry about. However, statistically, it is likely that a homeowner will suffer an Escape of Water at least once in their life.

"Leaving a water leak to continue to drip and not repaired can eventually result in major damage, as well as extra cost added to a water bill if there is a water meter installed. A ceiling can come down; a carpet can be ruined, as water pours out of a burst pipe under pressure. So a small leak can often become a big financial problem."

Legal & General’s "Stop the Drop" tips to help protect and minimise water leaks in the home include:

* Check insulation and lagging on any water pipes and tanks. Don’t forget any pipes outside or in a loft;
* Between November and March, make sure a property is at least 12C during day and night, particularly if away from home, even if only overnight;
* If going away, on holiday or for work reasons, keep the loft hatch open so that warm air can get to any pipes in this space;
* Find out where the stop tap is located. This is the first thing needed to stop water escaping if a pipe does burst;
* Consider fitting a device to detect water leaks which then cut off the water supply;
* Check radiator valves regularly for leaks;
* Check the sealant around a bath or shower and replace if loose or damaged;
* Check washers on taps and replace them as soon as they start to drip;
* Check the plumbing connections on a washing machine, dishwasher or fridge if it is plumbed in, particularly those with icemakers and replace valves that show any signs of leaking;
* Check the overflows on toilets, water tanks and central heating header tanks regularly;
* Check and clear gutters regularly and repair any damage so water is not able to seep into a property;
* If any patches of damp, mildew or mould appear, get them checked immediately as they might be caused by a gradual leak. Getting them fixed as soon as possible will prevent more serious damage happening later.

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