Water damage claims in Canada now make up 53% of all property insurance losses.*
As a former Insurance Broker I can attest to this statistic and even suggest that if all damage to property were reported & covered, that the number would be even higher. Why this growing trend? This is truly the fault of our own progression & modernization. If you consider that at only 100 years ago almost no one had water running or electricity into their homes, you can understand that damage from water was rare & in turn damage from fire was high. Electrical code (if you did have electricity running to your home) was non-existent & lighting your way by oil lamp & heating your house with firewood in a cast iron stove was the norm.
In this relatively short period of time we have evolved from indoor plumbing being a novelty of the rich to living in homes which in some cases have more bathrooms than bedrooms, appliances that wash our clothes & dishes and Hot water tanks sitting in our basements. This is the new normal. And although our electrical & heating prowess has grown to an art form in terms of safety and security, we haven’t yet solved the water puzzle.
I recall years ago as I was navigating the ropes as a first time homeowner, I was wrestling with a leaky garage. Every time it rained the water entered and soaked the floor. My wise neighbor was having a laugh at the many attempts I had made to band aid the situation. I was sure I could avoid what I though was the large bill it would take to properly re mediate the situation. Being a good neighbor he didn’t laugh too hard but instead offered the patient insight that I’ll always remember; he said to me “Water will find a way”. And it did, through every contraption, patch & quick fix I could throw at it.
I was lucky in the end that the water never did come into the house through the garage & after the painful reality of defeat had sunk in, I opened up my wallet and the phone book to call in a professional. I was however not so luck a few years ago when the washing machine malfunctioned a flooded my entire basement in 4 inches of water. I was so busy concerned about water coming in from the outside I never considered I’d get hit from the inside. My neighbors words echoed true: Water had found a way!
It turned out a simple $6 hose had burst and caused $25,000 in damage. (by the way: the cost of the upgraded braided hose I could have bought at the hardware store instead was only $12). Yes, two months and too many headaches later, I was able to rent out my basement again. Not only had I displaced my tenant and had to find a new one, I lost the income from rents, the deductible and my claims-free discount on my insurance policy (not mentioned the hours I spent on the loss salvaging property from the flooded basement).
Now my own personal mini-disaster described above is all too common for building owners of all types. As mentioned above 53% of all property damage claims are coming from water damage of one sort or another. This includes, burst pipes, storm damage, flood, malfunctioning appliances, faulty building envelope construction, sewer back-up losses, the list goes on. As building owners you can understand the potentially devastating effect water damage can have on your investment. Rents stop but bills continue to pile up. Tenants leave & find new premises to rent or lease. The mortgage still needs payments as do the utilities. Consider the even higher costs when the water is from grey & black water sources. Aside from the property damage you now have to consider mold and other airborne pathogens that can contaminate the property and even the air. Surely the solution isn’t to knock down every building and reconstruct with today’s latest technology in plumbing and water damage prevention. In my case a $12.00 investment would have saved $25,000.
Here’s a few loss prevention techniques you can implement in your building maintenance program:
– keep floor drains clear of obstruction;
– ensure that there is proper grading around your building;
– install a sump pump;
– install back flow valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections to prevent water from entering the home;
– for vacant buildings: drain the plumbing & arrange to have someone come in to ensure no signs of leakage has occurred. It is important to keep the heat on to avoid frozen pipes especially in older buildings.
– check water connections, hoses, pipes for signs of wear and tear.
Now there is no fool-proof way to ensure water damage will never occur. But if it does have on hand contact information for a Restoration Company as well as your insurance broker’s phone number. Whether insured or not, it is important for property owners and managers to document damage with photographs or video, and immediately, to begin loss mitigation procedures themselves; or hire a qualified contractor to do this on their behalf. It is totally inappropriate to put off mitigation while waiting for an insurance claims representative to arrive on the scene to evaluate the loss. By that time, in all probability sufficient time will have passed to grow and amplify microorganisms, which may not be covered by insurance. Loss mitigation is defined by insurance policies as “reasonable and prudent measures designed to preserve, protect and secure property from further damage.”
We do this because we know “water will find a way.”
* Insurance Bureau of Canada (2009 stats cited)