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Are Victorian plumbing lines putting your property at risk?

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A detailed report analysing 10-years of property claims, released by Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance (specialist insurance provider to the private rented sector), has identified escape of water as the most likely property insurance claim. Significantly, when looking at London claims, it has also identified a clear link between incidents for escape of water clustering not only around the Thames, but closely matching the city’s Victorian water mains.

The most claimed-for incident type between 2008 and 2018 was escape of water, defined as ‘when water has entered the property by the mains water supply causing damage’ e.g. a burst pipe. This accounted for 34 per cent of all claims paid out by Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance.

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Building damage and subsequent claims are part and parcel of owning a property.  However, in 2016, 13.6 per cent of all money paid out by Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance across the UK went to Londoners’ water-related problems. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to suggest that London has a serious problem when it comes to escaping water. In the Capital, there is a greater percentage of old buildings with plumbing that was first laid down over 150-years ago and that has been working over-capacity for decades. As a result, London’s water pipes have burst and leaked over 36,000 times in the last six years alone, according to Thames Water.

Interestingly, although a higher concentration of claims in London can in-part be attributed to a greater volume of London customers, some of the claims may be caused by centuries-old infrastructure that exists underground Victorian pipes. The report identifies a clear link between incidents for escape of water clustering not only around the Thames, but closely matching the city’s Victorian water mains.

When overlaying the data onto a Google map on which Victorian sewer lines are plotted, clusters along older Victorian pipes soon become evident, suggesting a correlation between London’s ageing infrastructure and the propensity for escape of water incidents. For example, between 2017-2018 there were 45 reported cases of escape of water along Victorian plumbing lines in Kensington, 28 in Shepherd’s Bush and 27 in Brixton.

Melissa Choules, senior claims technician at Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance said, “These figures show that one of the biggest potential threats to properties in London is an issue that many of us are not even aware of.

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“This is especially worrying for property owners in the capital, who appear especially vulnerable to escape of water incidents.  People looking to invest in property across the Capital may wish to consider researching the plumbing infrastructure in their local area.”

Thames Water have laid 2,300 km of new plastic pipework across Central and North London cutting leaks by 36 per cent, which has clearly helped evidenced by the reduction in money paid out to Londoner’s from 13.7 per cent in 2016 to 7.3 per cent in 2018.  However, there is still work to be done as much of the city is still served by Victorian piping.




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