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

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What’s trace and access cover?

Trace and access cover will pay the costs of finding and uncovering leaking pipes, as well as repairing damage caused by this access work.

It’s usually covered by your home insurance buildings policy, but it's not included on every policy as standard, so you'll have to check your documents.

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
91% of building insurance policies have trace and access cover

Based on 383 policies listed on Defaqto[1]

Levels of trace and access cover

The amount covered under trace and access varies.

Out of 383 buildings insurance providers on Defaqto, 67% cover between £5,000 and £9,999. 

Only 7% 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.

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.

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.

Underground services

If you have gas, water and/or sewage pipes crossing your private land to service your home, you might be responsible for fixing them, or at least have shared responsibility with the utilities company or another neighbour they supply.

You should check whether your home insurance covers repairs to underground services, especially if the damage was accidentally caused by you digging in the garden - although it’s likely that it will be.

Accidental damage to underground pipes is covered as standard by 86% of the buildings insurance policies on Defaqto; 12% offered it as an optional extra, and only 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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[1]Last checked 10 June 2019

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