Trace and access cover on home insurance

Trace and access cover will pay the costs of finding a leaking pipe and it’s likely your buildings insurance policy includes it.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 20 May 2022  | 4 min read

What is trace and access insurance?

Trace and access cover is a part of your home insurance that will cover the cost of finding the source of a water leak, for example, by calling out a plumber to uncover the cause of the leak.

It’s similar to water leak detection but as well as detecting it, the leak will also be exposed in order for it to properly be examined and repaired.

Trace and access cover doesn’t include the cost of repairing the leak and any damage it’s caused.

Key points

  • Trace and access cover won’t always be included as standard on home insurance and levels of cover vary
  • It can pay for finding and uncovering leaking pipes, and repairing the damage caused by accessing them
  • Check your policy covers pipes buried beneath your garden as well as within your home

Trace and access covers:

  • The cost of a plumber or builder locating the leak and demolishing walls or floor to find it
  • Damage caused while investigating the source of the leak
  • The materials used to rebuild the walls or floor after the leak is repaired

It doesn’t cover:

  • The repair of the leak itself
  • Damage caused by the leak
  • Roof leaks

Levels of trace and access cover

The amount covered under trace and access varies.

Out of 314 buildings insurance policies on Defaqto, 62% cover between £5,000 and £9,999. Only 9% offer unlimited cover, or cover ‘up to a reasonable amount’ - so when you consider that the destructive and reconstructive work of accessing buried pipes could run to thousands of pounds, it’s a good idea to check you’ve got adequate cover on your policy.[2]


What to do if you find a leak

Some leaks might be hard to find, but if you spot signs like damp patches on walls or a musty smell, contact an emergency plumber, heating engineer or your utilities company.

They’ll be able to assess where the water is coming from and stop or control the flow.

It’ll be disruptive and expensive, which is where trace and access cover is invaluable.

If your home insurance policy lists an emergency number, call that, and your insurer will send out an approved tradesperson.

Insurers should be flexible about who carries out the work in an emergency. They won’t want you to delay getting help, if it causes more damage to your home.

94% of building insurance policies have trace and access cover, according to Defaqto

What might cause a leak?

  • Toilets
  • Taps and tap washers
  • Radiators
  • Corroded pipes

Making a trace and access claim

Make sure the tradesperson only removes what’s necessary to find the leak.

For example, if there’s a leak coming from the sink, but your whole bathroom suite is ripped out, your insurer might not reimburse you.

Also, if part of a matching set is removed and damaged - such as the toilet that matches the bath and basin - your insurer might not agree to replace the rest, unless you’ve got matching set cover.


Why might a trace and access claim be refused?

There are a few reasons why a trace and access claim is refused:

  • Escape vs. ingress of water – trace and access is for things like the typical burst pipe scenario (escape), not water getting into your home from the outside (ingress)
  • A water leak isn’t the problem – if you suspect a leak but investigations reveal there isn’t one, you won’t be covered
  • There isn’t any water damage – this is very rare, but if there’s no water damage then it’s hard to pinpoint a leak at all

Insurance coverage for underground pipes

Most home insurance policies will cover repairs to damaged underground water, gas and sewage pipes that cross your private land to service your home.

Some insurers may not cover pipes that are not on your land, have been damaged intentionally, or degraded gradually due to general wear or tear.

Accidental damage to underground services is covered as standard by 81% of the buildings insurance policies on Defaqto, 18% offered it as an optional extra, and less than 1% wouldn’t cover it at all.


Getting help with pipe repair costs

Although you’re responsible for repairing services where they cross your property to supply your home, some water companies might offer free repairs to meet their leak-reduction targets.

Most will repair pipe leaks up to your home’s boundaries, but not within the property.

However, your water company doesn’t have to fix leaks on your property, and each company will have different policies, but it’s worth checking as an alternative to a home insurance claim.

If you’ve got a water meter, check your bills as a leaking pipe could mean you’re spending money on water you haven’t used.

An excess of water in the ground around your home could lead to flooding, heave or subsidence, so it’s worth getting the right cover in place to avoid expensive repair bills.

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[2]Last checked 16 August 2022