/ Home & Energy, Money

Pushing pipe insurance – what’s in it for your water provider?

A burst water pipe

As if utility bills aren’t high enough, water companies are encouraging us to buy largely unnecessary pipe insurance. But do they have their customers’ best interests in mind?

Hands up how many of you got a letter from your water company extolling the virtues of water pipe insurance? I bet plenty of you received a letter advocating Homeserve’s pipe cover.

But did you realise that your water company may already offer an assistance scheme that will partly or totally cover the costs of fixing any supply pipe leaks? Probably not, because many companies don’t flag these schemes up anywhere as much as they do the insurance option.

Is money an incentive?

So, why do they do this? It doesn’t take a cynic to conclude that the water companies are making something out of their tie-up with the pipe insurers. They also know that people who buy this kind of cover are more likely to claim on it than seek help from them when something does go wrong – ultimately saving the water supplier a costly bill.

In fact, out of the 12 water companies we looked at, 10 of them were found to be pushing water pipe insurance products. Only  Dŵr Cymru and Northern Ireland water avoided pushing sales.

What makes this set up even worse is that there’s a fair chance that homeowners will have some form of supply pipe protection included in their buildings insurance. And let’s face it, who likes insurance so much that they’re willing to pay for it twice?

I’m not saying that water pipe insurance is a waste of money – I’m sure it has its uses – such as cover for your supply pipes if they’re not included on your home insurance, or if your water company doesn’t offer an adequate assistance scheme. But in many cases, I suspect it’s just an unnecessary outlay.

Just give us the water

The key issue is that the water companies should stick to doing their core job – supplying water – rather than acting as agents for specialist insurers and peddling cover we could probably do without.

Do you have specialist water pipe insurance? Do you think it’s a waste of money, or has it come to the rescue before?


I am fed-up with my money being used to bombard me with letters offering this insurance. I assume that I am covered by my home insurance, though I should check. Next time I receive a letter I will check and hopefully I can asked to be removed from the mailing list.

I had a supply pipe leak discovered by my water service provider. Of course I did not have any insurance for this, but I was told that if I repaired it my self the provider would have to pay me a portion of the cost.
It turned out that some years ago [about 10] whilst laying the drive someone had hit the old lead supply pipe with a shovel bending & splitting it.
I dug a ditch from the meter to where the supply pipe entered my house, replaced the old pipe with a new plastic one.
Cost £300, with a £100 refund from the water service provider, so I paid £200 and instead of filling the ditch and relaying the hard surface, I have laid a flower bed above the supply pipe, so in maybe 50 years or so when there is another problem, easy access is provided.

This incident threw up 3 concerns.
1. Why wasn’t the [poisonous] lead supply pipe identified to me so I could have it changed to protect my families health. The provider had carried out work on it’s side during this time and knew that I had a lead supply pipe.

2. I have a water meter but pay the fixed rate, if I had opted to pay the metered rate I grow faint at the thought of how much I would have paid for this leak, as it was on my side.

3. The provider seemed to know of this leak for some time, but it was only when I called them [when the meter was changed] to remind them I was on a fixed rate, that they told me.This makes me wonder if they let the leak continue, knowing that for every gallon of water I ‘consumed’ they would be making a profit.

There are plenty of lead pipes still in use. Whether they are a problem depends very much on the salt content and pH of the water.

By salt content I mean all salts (minerals) present rather than salt as in what we use in food.

I live in a soft water area with low salt content, so feel slightly better now, still peeved that they didn’t tell me though

In general, soft and acidic water is the worst combination. I suggest you contact your water supplier for advice, M.

Just as I was feeling better! I will have a chat with them later.

Which could help by telling us which insurance companies fully cover this in their house policies, or give an option to include it. We all know it is a con on the part of the water companies but they play on our anxieties that we might incur a huge bill for a leak that occurred while we were away.

Marc says:
18 April 2012

I think this article is probably another opportunity to have a pop at the water industry. I had a leak on MY supply pipe, that’s right, my pipe which legally is my responsibility to maintain. My water supplier, who monitors its customers’ meter readings told me my usage was higher than normal and that I may have a problem. A representative called, undertook 1 hours free leak detection and pinpointed the position of the leak. A few days later and the pipe was dug up and repaired by the water company, they even calculated how much water had been wasted through the leak and adjusted my bill so I did not pay for this water.

When the repair was completed the water company did advise the pipe was in poor condition and suggested I consider an insurance as although they would contribute towards further repairs or indeed the replacement but not the full cost, pipe replacements are not cheap. Good advice? I think so, how may other utility providers would offer such a service? Would sky fix my TV, would e-on repair my boiler? I don’t think so and I pay them far more than my water company!!

This is true for all suppliers; They all have schemes to help with supply pipe leaks, my supplier told me it was a legislative requirement.
I think the article is pointing out that rather than let the customers know what provisions are already in place to help with supply pipe issues, they send out details of insurance policies instead.

Jennie, Richmond says:
20 April 2012

I fail to see the difference between selling this type of product to vulnerable customers and a bank mis-selling payment protection insurance. My parents (both over 80) were paying over £300 a year for Homeserve insurance like this sold to them by their water company Veolia because they’d been frightened into thinking they couldn’t cope if something went wrong with their water. When I found out and we rang to cancel the renewal, we were subjected to hard sell tactics (and an offer to almost halve the premium which we declined).

According to Mays Which? magazine it would cost just £2.00 a year extra per household to cover water supply pipe leaks. This is of course good value, but it’s only half the story. I live in the SouthWest Water region and get just as many letters from Homeserve offering Waste Water Pipe Insurance as I do Supply Pipe Insurance. Given that waste pipes can often be even harder to dig up and repair due to crossing from property to property than supply pipes it would make sense if we all paid £4 or £5 a year extra and had total cover. We have the most expensive water charges in the country here but I would still be prepared to pay a token amount extra for total cover.

Kathy Everitt says:
11 January 2015

I couldn’t agree more. We had a letter back in October, saying we were in credit for nearly £400. We had just decided to claim a large chunk of it back early on in November, when we received a bill from Severn Trent Water, informing us we owed them £1047!! Obviously, there was a leak. A leak, which I hasten to add, they did not rush to repair. The leak was fixed on 4th December! Luckily, it was JUST over the border so not our responsibility but, before we knew that, we were extremely worried about having to fork out a huge amount for the repair. I checked with our home insurance and was told only the digging down would be covered. We were also told by the water board that each house can only make a claim through the water company, once. So, if the family who lived in your house before you, had made a claim, you could then not do so! We are definitely now going to sign up to a water insurance, even if just for peace of mine. We never want to feel so unprotected again. The problem now is, deciding which company is the more reliable one to sign up with!

Les Hull says:
23 April 2012

You seem to exclude our area in both the Water Pipe article and Broadband/Phome packages. Whatever happened to Yorkshire Water?

Dr Mike Allan says:
23 April 2012

Back in 2001, we received a letter from Homeserve c/o East of Scotland Water (now Scottish Water), it was the first mailshot of probably 10 or 12 since.

In 2001, as a consumer representative for the East of Scotland Water region, I was extremely unhappy with the tone of the letter – it was a scare story of burst pipes – and the fact that it was in a water authority envelope and headed paper. I made an immediate complaint to the Water Industry Commissioner. The upshot was I succeeded drawing attention to the letter, and the wording changed, but the Commissioner Alan Sutherland let the relaionship continue and more mailshots followed.
I then made several complaints over several years, trying to stop the marketing on various counts , to successive consumer bodies in Scotland. By sheer persistence, I got my concerns about Homeserve and Scottish Water collusion up to the Scottish Executive. Time and again Scottish Water and Homeserve were green lighted to continue this marketing. I met resistance at every turn from the Commissioner, supposed consumer champions for water and civil servants. I recently received yet another mailshot from Scottish Water and Homeserve. At present, I have notified the new consumer body in Scotland, whose Chairman had appeared in the newspapers taking credit for investigating the issue, that they were repeating much of the work I had already done over the years. I got a reply thankIng me for my information, saying the Chairman would perhaps follow up with me. So thats my story, vanguarding since 2001 to get the relationship between the Scottish water authority and Homeserve investigated and exposed. The water industry commissioner, successive consumer bodies, several water authority CEOs and the Scottish Executive all condoned the letters and the insurance by their various indolences, and collusions. As a water consultant I am pursuing several other unacceptable practices here in Scotland, meeting similar barriers to change. I call it D,L,O – deny, lie and obfuscate, with so called Scottish consumer champions as more lap dog than guard dog.

Alan Addison says:
24 April 2012

Our water supplier is Anglian Water. We took out an insurance with Himeserve to cover our watermains and sewage pipes. After noting that the water mains is covered by Anglian Water, we cancelled the first part. Our property is rural and prone to subsidence being on the Cambridgeshire Fens, The sewage pipe connects to the manhole adjacent to the house, then proceeds to another manhole on my property before going off at an angle across a neighbouring field. As I understand the new regulations the Water company is now responsible for the mains sewage. I called in an Anglian Water engineers to ascertain the layout of the sewage pipes as a new development was proposed on my neighbour’s land.

I was informed that although the sewage pipes were on my land I would only be responsible to the first manhole. I have now cancelled the second part of my insurance. Therefore the illustration on page 23 of May 2012, Which, may not tell the whole story.

I think Which are almost as guilty of scaremongering as Homeserve. It would be helpful if Which said where the information on the various water company obligations could be found. Also let us know which insurance companies provide cover for pipes outside the house – I have been unable to find one – my insurer excludes what Homeserve covers. So, Which, I am not convinced your feature is 100% accurate, and it is not as helpful as it could be – pull your socks up!

Ron Robinson says:
25 April 2012

My home insurance renewal has just arrived and I note that the insurers have applied a £250.00 excess to the policy for claims for escape of water from – A fixed, a) water installation, b) drainage installation, c) heating installation, d) A washing machine, dishwasher, waterbed, refrigerator or deep freze cabinet.?
Could this be associated with the selling/not selling of the water company policies for pipe insurance.

I took out water supply pipe insurance with Homeserve and have had it for several years. I thought it was a wise move because our house which we bought new in 2003 is on a private shared lane and our water meter is approx 100 yards down the lane beyond the boundary of our property. Please correct me if I’m wrong but our provider Southern Water is responsible for the water pipe as far as our water meter and we are responsible for the pipe from the meter to our main tap in the house. This pipe runs under partially tarmacced and partially unmade (and unadopted) lane so if there is a problem with this pipe it would cost us a lot of money to get it fixed without the insurance. Also, I understand that Southern Water are taking on the responsibility of private sewers from 1/10/2011 and pumping stations (we and three other parties share the maintenance of one) from 1/10/2016 as part of Government legislation so I wonder whether Southern Water should move our water meter to within the boundary of our property. I would very much appreciate any helpful advice.

Norman says:
28 April 2012

I’m with Homeserve because my insurance company doesn’t cover the supply pipe within my boundary and I can find no reference on the United Utilities website to any free repair schemes. I would appreciate help in working out how to find it, especially as in a phone call some weeks ago I was told that no such scheme exists.
Some nine months ago Homeserve ‘gave’ me extended cover to include repairs within the house putting the cost up from £35 to £72. When I told them that I didn’t need this extra cover and wanted the supply pipe cover only, I was told that it would cost the same anyway! I am having to buy something that I don’t need or want – which is why I’m trying to find a way of moving away from doing business with Homeserve.

Ian says:
4 May 2012

We had a leak a few years ago and I paid to have a full new pipe installed with a ten year guarantee, but i still get two or three letters a year from Homeserve which go straight into the recycling

Mike Tucker says:
10 May 2012

I wrote to United Utilities about two claims by Homeserve. Firstly “one in ten homeowners have suffered a water supply pipe emergency at some point” and, secondly “One and a half million homes have suffered a water supply pipe burst”. Both were totally meaningless without a timescale; one year, fifty years, a hundred years, two hundred years?

I wrote to U.U. but they defended the advertising. I also wrote to the F.S.A. which regulates Homeserve and has, I believe, been investigating the company on another matter.

Prasad says:
22 August 2014

Why not Sue Homeserve for instilling fear into public minds and there by making money? Boom!!

Patrick says:
25 January 2015

I had my incoming water supply pipe insured separately up to about 3 years ago. I changed my house insurance provider and asked them if the water pipe from the pavement to my house was covered by their insurance and I was informed that it definetly was. As this negotiation was carried out over the phone I do not have a record of the conversation. Now guess what? I have a leak on my incoming water pipe and the insurers are now telling me that I am not covered. I have been on the insurance merry go round being passed from department to department all of which tell me that they can not help.

Janice says:
23 March 2018

We have a leak in a pipe which runs across our land. It does not receive water from our buildings – not clean water, or run off from the roof, or sewage water from loos or brown water from sinks/washing machines. We have been in touch with Severn Trent who are not interested – they say the pipe is not on their map so is not their responsibility. Our insurance company are not interested either although 18 years ago they repaired it when it got blocked with tree roots.

The pipe seems to run across the front of several houses down to a drain in the road. We have no idea where it originates. I thought that the water companies were supposed to take responsibility for shared pipes from October 2011. Can anyone cast light on this?