Households are being pushed to take out extra cover for water leaks — despite most already being protected by their home insurance policy.
Several major water companies are now advertising to online customers insurers which offer emergency plumbing and drainage cover.
Some are even sending homeowners several letters which sound urgent, promoting third-party providers.
Unnecessary: Many who sign up for leak cover could find they are paying for the same cover twice because their home insurance offers near identical protection
These warn households they are responsible for repairs to water supply pipes on their properties and could face hefty bills of up to £548 if they don’t buy insurance.
Firms are also luring customers with tempting discounts, which mean policies cost as little as 75p a month for the first year.
But customers who fail to cancel their policy later will face a bill shock, as prices can jump by more than 1,670 per cent when the introductory offer ends.
And many who sign up could find they are paying for the same cover twice, because their home insurance offers near-identical protection.
Our findings come as water firms face heavy criticism for failing to repair their own leaks. It is estimated that providers in England and Wales lost more than 1 trillion litres of water through leaking pipes last year, says water regulator Ofwat.
Most suppliers, including Affinity Water and Southern Water, work with the third-party insurer HomeServe, which has 1.5 million customers in the UK.
A letter to Southern Water customers, seen by Money Mail, claimed that HomeServe would take care of any problems that might arise, ‘which is reassuring when you consider that without protection in place it could cost £548 to locate, excavate and repair a water supply leak and £296 to unblock your private drains’.
Hikes: Firms lure customers with discounts, which mean policies cost as little as 75p a month for the first year, but prices can jump by more than 1,670% when the introductory offer ends
One Money Mail reader says: ‘I’ve been sent several letters by my water supplier in conjunction with HomeServe. The last one came in August.’
Yet while the firm has an enticing offer of just £9 for the first year, this rises to £159.84 at renewal unless you opt out.
And letters don’t remind customers to check if they already have protection in place until halfway down the second page.
HomeServe’s plumbing and drainage policy claims to insure against burst pipes, blocked toilets, leaking overflows and dripping taps.
Yet all typical home insurance policies, which cost an average of £162 a year, according to comparison site MoneySuperMarket, cover ‘escape of water’.
This includes damage caused by burst pipes, blocked toilets or leaking appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says an average of £1.8 million a day is paid out in claims for water leaks. Cover for repair costs varies between insurers. Some include this as standard, while others require you to buy an add-on.
An insurer could reject your claim if it believes you are at fault — perhaps if you ignored a slow leak, allowing the problem to worsen.
But you can add accidental damage cover to your home insurance, which might pay out if you cracked a pipe while carrying out building work, for example.
Some minor issues that HomeServe claims to cover, such as dripping taps, may not be included in your home insurance policy.
But HomeServe does charge a £30 excess per claim. The provider also excludes cover for boiler breakdowns, problems with guttering or digital shower systems.
Most home insurance policies should cover households for leaks because they are among the most common domestic damage claims
Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at Bestinvest, says: ‘Water companies are pushing unnecessary pipe insurance from third-party private firms, sometimes even employing scare tactics.
‘Yet most home insurance policies should cover households for leaks because they are among the most common domestic damage claims.’
Homeowners are responsible for private water supply pipes that run from the boundary of their property into their home, as well as the internal pipes, fittings and drains.
A Southern Water spokesman says: ‘In common with many other utilities, we have a partnership with HomeServe which we believe provides a useful service for many customers.
‘We would always encourage customers to check their home and contents insurances to ensure the product is right for them’.
A spokesman for HomeServe says: ‘Every time a customer chooses to buy or renew a product with us, we ask them multiple times to check against any cover they may have. We also make it really clear upfront what customers will pay if they renew with us.’