Water damage claims in Canada now account for 53% of all property insurance losses. *
As a former insurance broker, I can attest to this statistic and even suggest that if all property damage were reported and covered, the number would be even higher. Why this growing trend? This is really the fault of our own progression and modernization. If you consider that just 100 years ago hardly anyone had running water or electricity in their homes, you can understand that water damage was rare and fire damage was high. The electrical code (if you had electricity in your house) did not exist and the norm was to light your way with an oil lamp and heat your house with wood in a cast iron stove.
In this relatively short period of time, we’ve gone from indoor plumbing being a fad for the wealthy to living in homes that in some cases have more bathrooms than bedrooms, appliances that wash our clothes and dishes, and hot water tanks in our basements. . This is the new normal. And while our electrical and heating prowess has become an art form in terms of safety, we still haven’t solved the water puzzle.
I remember years ago, as I was navigating the ropes as a first-time homeowner, I was struggling with a leaky garage. Every time it rained, water came in and soaked the floor. My wise neighbor was laughing at the many attempts he had made to remedy the situation. I was confident that I could avoid what I thought was the large bill it would take to properly remedy the situation. Being a good neighbor, he didn’t laugh too much, but offered the patient perspective that I will always remember; He told me “The water will find a way.” And it did, through every gadget, patch, and quick fix that I could.
I was lucky in the end that the water never entered the house through the garage and after the painful reality of defeat sank in, I opened my wallet and phone book to call a professional. However, I wasn’t so lucky a few years ago when the washing machine malfunctioned and flooded my entire basement in 4 inches of water. I was so busy worrying about the water coming in from the outside that I never considered that they would hit me from the inside. The words of my neighbors echoed true: The water had found a way!
It turned out that a simple $ 6 hose had snapped and caused $ 25,000 in damage. (BTW: the cost of the upgraded braided hose that you could have bought at the hardware store was only $ 12). Yes, two months and a lot of headaches later, I was able to rent my basement again. Not only had I displaced my tenant and had to find a new one, but I lost my rental income, deductible, and my no-claims discount on my insurance policy (not to mention the hours I spent on property loss salvaging the flooded basement).
Now my own personal mini disaster described above is too common for building owners of all kinds. As mentioned above, 53% of all property damage claims stem from water damage of one kind or another. This includes burst pipes, storm damage, flooding, malfunctioning appliances, faulty building envelope construction, leaks of sewer backup, the list goes on. As building owners, you can understand the potentially devastating effect that water damage can have on your investment. Rentals stop but bills keep piling up. Tenants leave and find new premises to rent or lease. The mortgage still needs payments as well as the utilities. Consider the even higher costs when your water comes from gray and black water sources. Aside from property damage, you now need to consider mold and other airborne pathogens that can contaminate the property and even the air. The solution is surely not to tear down every building and rebuild it with the latest plumbing and water damage prevention technology today. In my case, an investment of $ 12.00 would have saved $ 25,000.
Here are some loss prevention techniques that you can implement in your building maintenance program:
– keep floor drains free of obstructions;
– make sure there is adequate grading around your building;
– install a sump pump;
– install backflow valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections to prevent water from entering the house;
– for empty buildings: drain the pipes and arrange for someone to enter to make sure there are no signs of leaks. It is important to keep the heat on to avoid frozen pipes, especially in older buildings.
– Check the water connections, hoses, pipes for signs of wear.
Now there is no foolproof way to guarantee that water damage never occurs. But you do have the contact information for a restoration company on hand, as well as the phone number of your insurance broker. Whether insured or not, it is important that owners and managers document the damage with photographs or video, and immediately begin the loss mitigation procedures themselves; or hire a qualified contractor to do it for you. It is totally inappropriate to postpone mitigation while you wait for an insurance claims representative to arrive on the scene to assess the loss. By that time, in all likelihood there will have been enough time to grow and amplify the microorganisms, which may not be covered by insurance. Insurance policies define loss mitigation as “reasonable and prudent measures designed to preserve, protect, and insure property from further damage.”
We do this because we know that “water will find a way.”
* Insurance Bureau of Canada (2009 statistics cited)