In 2019 property owners were caught off guard when insurance premiums and deductibles sky-rocketed. The most severely affected were the strata lot owners in large complexes who were suddenly faced with the prospect of increased strata fees to pay for premiums which had doubled or tripled since the previous year and a deductible in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. Homeowner insurance policies also increased.
While there are number of reasons for the dramatic increase in fees, one of the reasons for this increase was the number of claims made for water escape. A leaking toilet valve, a faulty dishwasher, a clogged and overflowing drain. When water escapes in a multi-unit building, it frequently affects multiple units and common areas and costs thousands of dollars to repair the damage.
Insurance costs are not going to significantly decrease any time soon but there are steps owners can take to reduce the risk of their unit being the source of the water escape. Being able to prove to insurers that you perform regular, preventative maintenance in your unit may even result in decreased premiums from some insurers.
- Water supply lines – these are the flexible hoses that connect the main pipe work to your appliances (dishwasher, washing machine), faucets (hot and cold, bathroom and kitchen) and toilets. Best practice is they should be braided steel and changed every 5 years or whenever you change an appliance.
- Toilets – toilets appear sturdy but a lot can go wrong – toilets can crack and break at the tank or bowl, valves can leak, the wax seal that joins the toilet to the sewer pipe can deteriorate and leak. Un-insulated toilet tanks can sweat (the cold water in the tank causes condensation to build on the exterior of the tank which then drips off causing damage to floors over time. Inspect your toilet regularly for signs of deterioration and replace your wax seal every 10 years.
- Drains – clogged drains can cause back ups and flooding. Keep drains clean and clear of hair, food and other debris. Over time the strainer can deteriorate or the built in plug system can fail making it easier to drop large items into the drain. Tub and shower drains can crack or come loose and leak without immediate detection. Inspect drains regularly and replace deteriorated parts.
- Washing Machines – Use the correct type and amount of detergent for your machine. Too many suds can cause a temporary blockage in the drain that can result in overflow. Check your drain is clean and the waste water hose is in good condition at the same time you check your supply lines.
- Shower cartridges – the cartridge is a type of valve that controls the flow and mix of water. When they start to fail you may notice; water temperature fluctuations, difficulty turning the faucet, water coming out of the shower head after you have turned the shower off. If you notice any of these problems you should have your shower cartridge replaced. It is suggested they should be inspected and/or replaced every 5 years.
- Grout and caulking – When this fails water can seep behind tiles and down the side of the tub or shower tray. Refreshing grout and caulking on a regular basis not only prevents water escape but helps keep your bathroom looking great.
Some other items to consider if they apply to your unit are hose bib maintenance, regular service of hot water tanks and boilers and cleaning of gutters.
Of course if you are hoping to get some benefit in terms of reduced insurance premiums or are planning to sell your home, it’s important that you document your maintenance and ideally have it completed by a qualified professional who can provide a report of what was done.
We hope this information helps you stay leak free in your home and perhaps earns you some relief on your insurance costs. When you live in a multi unit building, keeping insurance costs down is a team effort.