The majority of homeowners do not view internal water leak damage as the most concerning home threat, despite the fact that water leaks are a more frequent risk than fire and theft, a new Chubb survey revealed.
“The time between when a leak occurs and when it is discovered is the single greatest factor in determining the amount of damage,” said Fran O’Brien, division president of Chubb North America Personal Risk Services. “As a result, leaks that occur while you’re away result in greater amounts of damage, in terms of both cost and severity.”
Nearly 80 percent of homeowners overlook threat of costly water leaks while on vacation, the survey found.
Instances of water damage have been rising dramatically. In the past 10 years, the frequency of sudden pipe bursts has nearly doubled. In 2015, water damage accounted for nearly half of all property damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Chubb’s new Homeowners’ Water Risk Survey measures homeowners’ attitudes toward home protection, the risks they’re most concerned about and what they are overlooking. The online survey of 1,200 homeowners finds that just 8 percent of homeowners correctly identify August as the month with the most water leak events, and when subsequently heading out on a late-summer vacation, just 22 percent shut off the water main (despite 88 percent knowing where it is located within their home).
While homeowners are particularly vulnerable during the summer travel season, the study finds many face year-round water exposures. For instance, despite the fact that 91 percent of homeowners rate themselves as “vigilant” or “doing an okay job” at preventative home maintenance, and that close to half (45 percent) have or know someone who has experienced a water leak in the past two years, only 18 percent have installed a water leak detection device.
Of all homeowners, high-net-worth individuals are particularly at risk. When compared against other income segments, for instance, high-net-worth individuals are the most likely (55 percent) to report being “vigilant” about conducting preventative maintenance, yet are the least likely (26 percent) to rank internal water leaks as their top home-related concern. High-net-worth homeowners are also the income group least likely to periodically inspect appliance hoses (33 percent compared to 61 percent of middle class homeowners, the most of any income group), a frequent cause of internal water leaks.”The adoption of certain preventative home maintenance devices, including fire, carbon monoxide and security systems, is standard practice among the majority of all homeowners, regardless of income, as they address what are perceived to be the most common property risks,” explained O’Brien. “But internal water leaks are a leading cause of property damage. With 57 percent of homeowners who have experienced a water leak claim in the past two years spending $5,000 or more on clean up and repair costs — and 15 percent spending $20,000 or more — many are overlooking their exposure at a significant cost.”While O’Brien says there are a number of steps homeowners can take to mitigate the risk, she recommends that when they go through their pre-departure process of locking doors and windows, identifying a neighbor to keep an eye on their home, and ensuring some lights are left on, that homeowners also add shutting off the water main to the checklist.
Additional findings from the survey include:
- The majority of homeowners (63 percent) cite the threat of relocating for an extended period of time (between one month and a year) as their first or second most potentially concerning water damage-related event. With the window for a quick restoration closing just 72 hours after a leak, extended relocation is a real possibility homeowners must contend with.
- A quarter of all homeowners have never had their appliances inspected, despite being the surest way to prevent a leak from occurring.
- Many homeowners also cited the loss of irreplaceable items (59 percent) and repairing structural damage (46 percent) as the top most potentially concerning water damage-related events.
- The majority of homeowners are unfamiliar with the most common sources of internal water leaks, with close to half (49 percent) identifying the water heater as the most likely source (independent analyses indicate plumbing supply systems pose the greatest risk).
The Homeowners’ Water Risk Survey is the first survey by Chubb measuring homeowners’ approaches and behaviors toward internal water leak detection and prevention. Conducted by Research Now, an online market research company, the online survey was fielded between July 24, 2017 and July 29, 2017. The results are based on 1,202 completed surveys, of which 25 percent of respondents were middle class ($50,000 to $99,999), 25 percent were upper middle class ($100,000-$499,999), 36 percent were mass affluent ($500,000-$999,999) and 13 percent were high-net-worth ($1,000,000 or more).
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