• Freezing winters cost £1bn in burst pipes*

    November 14th 2011. Posted in Home Insurance

    With plummeting temperatures expected this week, AXA is warning that the last two years have seen one in a thousand people fall victim to burst pipes with average claims reaching a massive £25,000.

    Statistics from AXA home insurance show that during the freezing winters of the last two years, 'escape of water claims' have escalated by around 50% leaving tens of thousands of homeowners facing the misery of damaged or destroyed property and a total insurance bill of £1bn. The company calculates that the bill for the 20%** of people with no contents insurance could have cost consumers a further £23m out of their own pockets.

    The company's data showed that as temperatures dropped during the cold winters of the last two years, customers were three times more likely to have an escape of water claim than a theft claim and 13 times more likely than a fire claim.

    The average contents claim was £6,100 and the average buildings claim was £19,200. Yet consumers hugely underestimate the potential cost of a burst pipe with 83% of people estimating that a claim would cost less than £5k and 93% reckoned it would be less than £10k.*** For those with no insurance the real cost is much more than average accessible savings.

    Further research showed that less than 50% take the most basic and simple measures to prevent the worst happening - only 42% insulate pipes and 45% leave heating on low when going out in freezing weather.

    The biggest claims have seen houses totally destroyed with costs reaching hundreds of thousands of pounds.

    Christine Matthews, head of household claims at AXA Insurance says: "Burst pipes in cold weather are a real issue. For those with insurance there is the comfort that the financial burden will be covered, but insurance cannot compensate for the misery and disruption of having your home and contents destroyed by water.

    "Sadly, many, many instances of burst pipes could be avoided through a little maintenance and taking some simple precautions. We appreciate that heating bills can be expensive but keeping the radiators on very low while you are away will probably cost less than the excess on your insurance should the worst happen."

    AXA's tips for protecting pipes

    1. Leave your heating on at a minimum of 13°C. This will stop water in your pipes from freezing.
    2. Leave your loft hatch open to let warm air circulate - particularly if you have a cold water tank in your loft.
    3. Make sure you know where your stop cock is so you can turn off water quickly in an emergency.
    4. Check the insulation on your water pipes and the lagging on your cold water tank - if there's none in place get it sorted as soon as possible.
    5. Insulate your loft - not only will this keep your home warm, it has environmental benefits too.
    6. Leave your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open - this will allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes that are often found inside these cupboards.
    7. Seal any holes that let in cold air. With modern technology, increasing numbers of people have holes in the wall for computer cables or TV links.
    8. If you're going away for an extended break, drain your water system. The group most badly affected by claims in the last couple of years were the over 50s who were spending the winter abroad.
    9. Also if you are away, get you neighbours to check on your property and if you are away for an extended period check that you have proper insurance cover in place. Most policies will have restrictions relating to un-occupancy - make sure you know what these limits are.
    10. Check your insurance is up to date and you are covered for the full value of your contents. If you're an AXA home insurance customer and the worst happens, highly trained call handlers from AXA will guide you through your claim.

    *Data on claims numbers and values taken from AXA claims statistics
    **Datamonitor's 2009 UK Household Insurance Report, estimates nearly 20% of the adult population has no contents insurance.
    ***Consumer research based on Onepoll survey of 2000 adults in October 2011

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