LONDON, UK, (28 November, 2011): Last year the winter freeze accounted for the largest proportion of home and contents claims (28%) for Hiscox. As the nights draw in homeowners across the UK are urged to take steps to safeguard their properties against possible freezing conditions and to check their household policies to ensure they know what is and what is not covered.
Every home has different architectural features and building systems making it important for homeowners to understand the risks particular to their property. Hiscox’s analysis of claims data* shows that the age of the property had minimal bearing on the extent of freeze damage – demonstrating that old or new, homeowners need to look at where they might be exposed. For example, of the 58% of freeze claims originating in loft spaces, the problems in older houses were mainly due to antiquated heating systems and poor lagging. In newer homes it was due to over insulation keeping out heat that led to frozen or burst pipes. It is also important for homeowners to check pipes both inside and outside of the house, including those in the garden, to ensure that they are covered by their insurance policy.
Andrew Cheney, Senior Risk Advisor at Hiscox, comments:
“Preparing for freezing conditions isn’t a one size fits all. The damage suffered in the freeze last winter demonstrates the importance of thoroughly understanding your property so that you can take appropriate steps to prepare for the colder weather and not be caught out.
“Furthermore, the weather can change every day and in winter there may be more than one single freeze. Just as you wouldn’t leave a pot boiling on a stove, when the cold sets in, checking your pipes and taking action can prevent damage before it happens. Last year freeze claims coincided with the holidays when people were away. When planning for holidays remember to keep the heating on low and ask someone local to check your property regularly. Being vigilant and finding a leak early can prevent larger scale damage.”
The cold spots
- 26% of freeze claims were for damage to unoccupied properties
- 58% of freeze claims originated in loft spaces
- 16% of damage occurred on the outside of the home (for example, the sheer weight of snow on an outbuilding roof causing it to collapse and blocked or frozen guttering causing water to overflow into a property)
Be prepared and take action
With the potential for another big freeze, homeowners should start to think ahead to minimise the risk of damage from storms, snowfall and freezing pipes. The following are preventative steps to help protect pipes:
- If you have your home surveyed, ask the surveyor to assess the adequacy of pipe lagging
- Ensure your boiler goes through a ‘MOT’, particularly if you’ve inherited an old system with the house. This should be done annually
- Check that water pipes in loft spaces are fully lagged
- Know the location of the stopcock and how to turn it off should you experience frozen pipes
- Insulate pipes, water tanks and cisterns, especially in unheated areas like lofts, outbuildings and under floor spaces
- If you turn on a tap and no water comes out - don’t take chances - call a plumber immediately and turn off the water supply
- Open your attic or hatch door slightly during extreme cold spells to let heat into the loft to help prevent pipes freezing
- When a cold snap is forecast, consider changing your central heating thermostat from a timer to 24 hours until the cold snap ends
If leaving property unoccupied
- Keep the heating switched on at a low temperature to prevent pipes from freezing or turn off the water supply and drain the taps completely to prevent a burst pipe
- Even more importantly for unoccupied properties open your attic or hatch door slightly to let heat into the loft to help prevent pipes freezing
- Have someone check your house regularly to minimise damage should an incident occur in your absence, including checking for frozen pipes by testing if the taps are running water
- Consider draining the water system if the property will be unoccupied for a significant time
- Ends -
Notes to Editors
* Based on analysis of Hiscox home insurance claims of 606 customers from December 2010 – January 2011
For further information please contact:
+44 (0) 207 448 6494
+44 (0) 207 074 1837
Hiscox, the international specialist insurer, is headquartered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). There are three main underwriting parts of the Group - Hiscox London Market, Hiscox UK and Europe and Hiscox International. Hiscox London Market underwrites internationally traded business in the London Market - generally large or complex business which needs to be shared with other insurers or needs the international licences of Lloyd's. Hiscox UK and Hiscox Europe offer a range of specialist insurance for professionals and business customers, as well as high net worth individuals. Hiscox International includes operations in Bermuda, Guernsey and USA. Hiscox Insurance Company Limited, Hiscox Underwriting Limited, Hiscox Europe Underwriting Limited and Hiscox Syndicates Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
For further information, visit www.hiscoxgroup.com