An interactive guide to escape of water risk

  • Escape of water is one of the biggest property risks faced by registered providers of social housing
  • Many escape of water risks can be mitigated through simple measures taken during the construction of new buildings and maintenance/refurbishment programmes
  • We discuss how to work with contractors and tenants to help reduce the number of escape of water incidents and minimise damage and disruption

Escape of water presents one of the greatest risks to registered providers (RP) of social housing. The cost of repairing water damage can often be substantial, with residential escape of water claims frequently running into tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of pounds.

Multi-storey apartment blocks are particularly susceptible to larger claims, as water can leak into lower floors and cause damage to multiple units.

RPs are also heavily reliant on tenants alerting them to potential problems that could ultimately lead to significant water damage if not remedied swiftly – such as small cracks or leaks.

“Following a fire or a break-in it’s apparent straight away what the damage is or what has been stolen,” explains Richard Parslow, Risk Analyst, Zurich Risk Engineering. “But with escape of water, you have to try and trace the source of the leak before you can really assess the scale of the damage, which isn’t always easy.

“A small water leak in the loft area of a property could end up causing damage to anything from carpets and flooring to ceilings, walls, electrical wiring and household appliances.”

How different escape of water risks can emerge

Any part of a property that is connected to the water system presents a potential escape of water risk, as our interactive infographic below shows.

Some common risks include:

  • Uninsulated pipework in loft spaces freezing and bursting during winter months
  • Leaks from baths, shower trays and radiators
  • Incorrectly plumbed household appliances

Reducing escape of water risk in new builds

Damage can commonly occur due to oversights during the construction of a property – for example incorrectly fitted pipework.

To mitigate escape of water risk in new builds, there are a number of things you can do, including:

  • Ensuring you have robust processes for selecting the right contractor and vetting the quality of their work
  • Managing the construction project carefully so your contractors follow the brief and specifications
  • Establishing clear procedures to ensure you are made aware of any potential problems (including escape of water incidents – see boxout) that emerge during construction.

Parslow says: “While your contractors will be given a brief and specifications to follow, it’s up to you to make sure the project is managed properly and that your contractors get it right first time.

“It’s very difficult to get access to things like pipework further down the line if a mistake has been made, which is why it’s crucial to recognise any problems and correct these during the construction phase.

“It is important you are aware of what your contractors are doing at all times, that you are checking the quality of their work regularly, and that they are working to the specified brief.”

To help you with this task, we have produced an escape of water awareness guide that explains some of the issues to look out for at the new build stage.

The importance of tenant communication

No matter how carefully you project manage the construction phase, the risk of escape of water remains once your tenants move in.

Parslow says: “It is vital that you encourage your tenants to communicate with you as soon as any problems occur.

“You can do this by sending out newsletters or e-bulletins encouraging tenants to look out for signs of potential water leaks or damage, which is particularly important during the autumn and winter months, when pipes are more likely to freeze.

“Water leaks can occur when tenants have plumbed in their washing machines or other appliances incorrectly. Communicate to your tenants where they can get help if they lack the confidence or competence to install appliances themselves.”