Are underground pipes covered by home insurance?

Home insurance can protect the parts of your home you can’t even see, including underground pipes and drains. Luckily, you won’t need to dig deep to find the right policy - it’s easy when you compare home insurance.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 2 May 2023  | 3 mins read
Reviewed by Jasmine Hembury

Are underground pipes covered by home insurance?

The underground pipes and drains coming in and out of your property transport water, gas and sewage.

Most buildings home insurance policies include cover for accidental damage to underground pipes you’re legally responsible for. Typically, these are the pipes that cross your private land to service your home.

Policies can cover the cost of repairs to pipes and drains, as well as costs incurred in locating the source of the damage. This could include paying to rebuild any walls, paths or fences that had to be removed or were damaged during a search.

Not all buildings policies include underground pipe cover as standard, though, so be sure to check your policy.

Key points

  • Buildings insurance should cover the underground pipes you’re legally responsible for - usually those that cross your land
  • Accidental damage is usually covered but not gradual damage, corrosion and wear and tear or improper use
  • Common damage to pipes includes blockages, cracks and fractures, collapsed drains and root ingress

Insurance won’t cover pipes that are owned by and are the responsibility of your neighbours or water company.

Pipes usually become the responsibility of your water supplier where they leave your property boundary. Also, drains that connect to a neighbour’s drain and the main sewer are generally the water supplier’s responsibility.

If you have any problems with an underground pipe and you’re unsure if repairs are your responsibility or not, contact your water supplier.

Are sewer pipes covered?

Blocked or broken drains and sewer pipes can cause waste to build up and even back up into your home. This would not only create unpleasant smells but also pose a health hazard. So clearing the problem and repairing sewer pipes and drains is an urgent job.

It’s your responsibility to maintain and repair drains inside your property boundary. Sewer pipes outside your property boundary and main sewer pipes are the responsibility of the water and sewerage company.

Some buildings insurance policies cover sewer pipes you’re responsible for as standard. Check if yours does. It’ll pay for the cost of finding, clearing or repairing the issue, as long as the cause is found to be accidental damage. This could include damage caused by something like movement of subsoil due to subsidence or landslip, or tree roots that have grown into the pipe.

However, your insurer is unlikely to pay out if the blockage happened because of a lack of care or improper use on your part. So if your drain is blocked because you flushed baby wipes or sanitary products down your toilet or disposed of cooking oil, leftovers and coffee grounds down your sink, you probably won’t be covered.

You also won’t be covered for neighbour’s pipes causing damage to your property.

Common exclusions

Buildings insurance can pay out for accidental damage to your underground pipes but you won’t be covered for everything. For example:

  • Gradual damage, corrosion and wear and tear to pipes and drains
  • Lack of, or poor maintenance on your part. You should make regular checks of your pipes and drains to ensure they’re not corroding, brittle or blocked up and arrange for repairs as necessary, before problems get worse
  • Improper use of your drains and pipes - things like blockages caused by flushing baby wipes down the toilet or pouring leftover cooking oil, coffee grounds and food waste down the sink plughole
  • Problems with pipes owned by your water company or neighbours, even if the issue is affecting you
  • Poor design, construction or workmanship

Common causes of damage to underground pipes

  • Root ingress - where tree or plant roots put pressure on or grow into pipes causing cracks
  • Cracks or fractures near pipe joints
  • Blockages and obstructions
  • Collapsed drains
  • Digging holes in the ground. If you’re having deep excavation building work done, professional builders should scan for pipework underground

What to do if your policy doesn't cover underground pipes

Most buildings insurance policies include accidental damage cover for your underground pipes and drains as standard. We found that 251 of 304 buildings insurance policies listed on Defaqto covered this.[1]

When it’s not included as standard you can usually pay to cover them as an optional extra on the policy.

You could also look at taking out plumbing and drainage insurance, also known as home emergency cover.

It’s sometimes included in a comprehensive home insurance policy, or it can be bought as an optional extra.

It can pay for the cost of the repair, parts and call-out charges for sudden and urgent issues including blocked drains or leaking pipes on your property.

Who's responsible for pipes found within your property?

Any pipes in your home are generally your responsibility to look after, repair and replace if there’s a leak or some other type of damage.

This can include your internal stop tap - the tap that you use to turn your home’s water supply on and off.

Burst pipes and water leaks in your home are covered under the ‘escape of water’ clause of your home insurance. Policies usually include the cost of removing and replacing parts of walls or floors to find the source of a leak. This is called trace and access cover.

If the leak has happened because you haven’t taken adequate care or properly maintained the pipes in your home, you won’t be covered.

[1] 251 of 304 buildings insurance policies cover underground services as standard. 53 of 304 cover them as an optional extra - Defaqto. Checked on 12th April 2023.