Families risk no insurance for frozen pipes due to little-known ‘thermostat clause

Families taking a short break during the festive season will not be able to resort to insurance if their pipes burst or leak thanks to a little-known clause in their home insurance coverage.

More and more insurers are saying that anyone who leaves a property for five days or more must keep their heating above freezing or drain their water system completely.

If they don’t, the property won’t be covered if pipes burst or water leaks from cold weather.

Esure, Sheilas’ Wheels and Admiral are among the insurers that have included a “thermostat clause” in their policies. Admiral states that the thermostat must be set to 12 degrees Celsius or higher, while Esure and Sheilas’ Wheels say customers must take “reasonable care” to heat their homes.

Reasonable: If Sophie Mason hadn’t got home insurance, she would have received a bill for thousands of pounds to fix a leaky pipe in her new home

Bursting or leaking pipes lead to some of the most expensive home insurance claims. Adrian Webb, Head of Marketing and Communication at Esure, says: “When a house catches fire, the neighbors often smell it and it can be done quickly.

A burst pipe is silent and a house can collapse. This type of damage can be devastating. ‘

Bursting pipes occur when water in the plumbing system freezes and expands and the pipes tear.

When it thaws, leakage from the attic can cascade through the property, soaking the floors and causing structural damage.

Leaking pipes that occur over a long period of time can also cause structural damage and create expensive claims.

Lloyds Bank insurance specialists say the average burst pipe damage compensation last year was £ 1,720.


Little did they know that a leaking pipe behind the shower had caused significant damage when Sophie Mason (pictured above) and partner Adam Drinkwater recently bought an apartment in Bedford that hadn’t been inhabited for a while.

Sophie, a 26-year-old merchandising manager, said, “Nobody was in the house to pick it up and the water had flooded the ceiling of the floor, as well as the walls and floor. Since the pipe was hidden behind the tiles, we did not discover it at first and the damage was great. ‘

Sophie was able to get her home insurance with the Nationwide Building Society. She says, “There was still a lot of work to be done and Nationwide was good at keeping track of it. Experience has made me more cautious of pipes and pipelines. When we had the new shower installed, I made sure the pipes were on the outside so I could see what was going on. ‘

Even though Sophie had to pay a £ 200 deductible, she would have been billed for thousands of pounds if she hadn’t been insured.

Lloyds doesn’t insist on a specific temperature for unoccupied homes, but Kevin Pratt, insurance expert on the comparison website MoneySuperMarket, says these clauses are becoming more common.

He adds: “All insurers have different attitudes on this. Therefore, it is important to check the Key Facts document or insurance plan for any restrictions or conditions.

‘No two guidelines are alike. If you can’t scroll through the fine print on the policy, you should call your insurer for clarification or use a live chat service if one is available on the insurer’s website. ‘

Keeping Warm: Bursting and leaking pipes lead to some of the most expensive home insurance claims

Keeping Warm: Bursting and leaking pipes lead to some of the most expensive home insurance claims

Some insurers only require you to turn off the tap water if you are gone for more than a month.

Esures Webb is defending the company’s decision to include the due diligence clause in its policy. He says: “We send all policyholders for whom we have addresses an email before every cold snap to remind them of this clause.”

The requirement to keep the heating on when you are away for five days or more applies from November to March regardless of weather conditions.

Even those with a “freeze thermostat” that turns on when the temperature is low enough to endanger pipes could break the clause as they turn on at five to ten degrees Celsius (41 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). , instead of Admiral’s specified temperature of 12 degrees Celsius.

Admiral defends his tough stance. James Carnduff, chief communications officer, says, “If a house is unoccupied when a pipe breaks, the damage is usually more severe than if the house is occupied. When you are at home, if you notice a leak, you can turn off the water supply. ‘

Martyn James, media director at the Financial Ombudsman Service, says if a policyholder can demonstrate that they have taken steps to keep their home warm while they are away – for example, by putting their heater on a timer for a few hours each Day – then it is more likely that you will decide in your favor in disputes, even if the strict temperature clause has not been adhered to.

Homeowners are urged to prepare for winter – maintain the boiler and check roofs and fences. Insurer Direct Line says a quarter of winter damage is caused by frozen pipes, while other claims are due to roof damage, failed boilers, and problems with walls and fences.

Katie Lomas, Director of Home Insurance at Direct Line, says, “Keep the heating on at 15 ° C (59 ° F) in winter. Find out where your stopcock is and how to turn off the water in an emergency. ‘

Seven Important Steps When You Have A Water Leak

1. Turn off the water supply. The stopcock is often located under the sink in the kitchen.

2. Switch off the power in the area affected by the leak via the fuse box. If there is significant water damage, power should be turned off entirely until a qualified electrician makes sure everything is safe.

3. If there is a cold water leak, empty the cold water tank by running all cold water taps.

4. Catch dripping water in buckets. When the ceiling starts to bulge, poke a few small holes so the water drips into another bucket.

5. Avoid entering the room if water has been leaking for some time and the ceiling is bulging badly.

6. Switch off the central heating and the immersion heater.

7. Contact your home insurer for advice – and to report a claim.

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