Discovering a leak in your property can be an alarming experience, and to prevent it from getting worse and causing serious damage, you’ll want to take certain measures to shut off the water supply as soon as possible.
However, sometimes it’s easier said than done, and not everyone’s an expert when it comes to plumbing. To help you carry out some damage control, here’s our guide on what to do if you find a leak in a rental property.
Who is responsible for the repairs?
When it comes to who is responsible for repairs in a rental property, it can be a bit of a grey area. As a general rule, the tenant will be responsible for any small tasks and general upkeep that is required at the property – such as bleeding radiators and changing light bulbs. For larger issues however, such as a water leak, they’ll need to get the landlord involved, as the landlord is ultimately responsible for any maintenance or repairs required to the building, or to any items that were there when the tenant moved in, such as white goods (if they’ve been provided).
If you have home emergency cover in place for your rental property, you may be able to add your tenant as a ‘note of interest’ to the policy, meaning they can contact the insurer and make a home emergency claim on your behalf should they need to. Home emergency insurance will cover the cost of making the property safe and secure following an unexpected emergency. However, bear in mind that a home emergency policy will not usually cover against routine maintenance costs as a result of general wear and tear, or damage caused by faulty workmanship or DIY - so take the time to understand exactly what’s covered under your policy.
How to recognise a leak
In all likelihood, it’s probably not going to be that difficult to recognise a leak in a property – this section is more about understanding the scale of the leak so that you can carry out the correct course of action. Equally, when you speak to a plumber or tradesman about repairs, they’re going to want to know whether it’s a minor leak or a major leak so they can make sure they’re fully prepared to tackle the task at hand.
A minor leak can usually be fixed relatively quickly, and can be recognised by the following signs:
There is only a small amount of water, meaning the leak can be easily contained
There is minimal water damage to the walls, furniture and fixtures
The leaking of water is intermittent (as in, your tenants aren’t currently living in a swimming pool)
However, even a minor leak can sometimes get out of control, so it’s important to deal with the problem as soon it arises. Further information on the steps you should take to mitigate further damage from a water leak are detailed below.
Major leaks are slightly more serious and will require more urgent action to be taken. These are some of the tell-tale signs of a major leak:
There is too much water to be contained, and is a constant flow of water that shows no signs of stopping
The water is affecting the electrical fittings
The water is dirty or wastewater. This is usually a sign of a larger issue, as wastewater could indicate that there’s a leak in the sewage line – something you’ll want to get sorted as soon as possible.
What to do about a major leak
1. Find the source of the leak
It will hopefully be fairly obvious where the water is leaking from, but this isn’t always the case. You might have to go on a bit of an exploration to pinpoint exactly which pipe or appliance is leaking. Some landlord insurance policies will cover trace and access of a leak, usually up to a maximum amount, so check your policy documents to find out if you’re covered.
Once you’ve found the source of the leak, you will need to check whether your landlord insurance provider will also cover the repairs – if not, you will need to hire a plumber or tradesman to fix the issue. If you haven’t been able to find the source of the leak (usually a sign of a more complex issue), a professional tradesman will be able to help with this as well.
2. Switch off the water
It won’t come as a surprise that, when you have a leak in a property, you should try and stop the flow of water as quickly as possible to minimise any further damage. Once you’ve found the source of the leak, this can be done simply by locating and turning the stop valve on the pipe or appliance where the water appears to be coming from. A stop valve is used to completely stop the flow of water through a pipe, and so is pretty important when it comes to fixing a water leak.
If the water for the property is metred, bear in mind that a leak could result in a large increase on your tenant’s water bill, as the water company won’t be able to differentiate between used water and the water that’s been wasted as a result of the leak. However, your tenants might be entitled to a leak allowance, whereby the water company will refund them for the wasted water - although this usually only applies if there hasn’t been a leak at the same property before. If your tenants have incurred a large water bill as a result of a water leak, let them know that it’ll be worth putting in a call to their water provider to check out whether they’re entitled to a leak allowance.
3. Switch off the electricity
Whenever there’s lots of water involved, you will want to switch off the electricity at the mains - otherwise you could end up with a nasty shock. Even if it’s just a minor leak that you’re facing, it’s still a good idea to switch off any plugs and appliances that are anywhere nearby, just in case there’s some splash back.
4. Call in the experts
If it’s only a minor leak, then it could be that it’s a relatively easy fix that you can carry out yourself – such as replacing a piece of pipe under the kitchen sink.
However, if there is still free-flowing water and you feel ill-equipped to handle it, as mentioned above it might be a good idea to call in a plumber or tradesman to have a look at the issue – it might not just be your property that’s affected.
When it comes to a major leak, it might also not always be clear where the water is pouring in from, so it’s a good idea to have a professional cast their eye over the issue.
Water leaks and landlord insurance
Unfortunately, even if you deal with a water leak as soon as possible, there is still the potential for substantial water damage to your property. However, more often than not, a landlord buildings insurance policy will provide cover for water damage, leaks and flooding at your property, meaning you’re not left out of pocket should the unexpected happen.
A comprehensive landlord insurance policy may include the following covers:
Trace and access (usually up to a maximum amount)
Accidental damage to underground drains, pipes, cables and tanks (that you’re responsible for)
Water damage to your walls, fixtures, fittings and contents (if you have contents cover included)
However, make sure to check with your insurer to find out exactly what is covered under your landlord insurance policy.
There are lots of types of landlord insurance available that will protect you against not only the physical risks of letting properties (such as leaks and water damage), but the financial ones as well. Rent guarantee insurance, for example, helps to protect your investment against long term missed payments, which is often invaluable for landlords who rely on the rental income to cover their mortgage payments. Legal protection is often included as well to cover the costs of rent recovery, evicting squatters and defending your legal rights.