Press Release

Water damage insurance claims remain high despite more Aussies working from home

  • 77 per cent of survey respondents impacted by water damage were at home at the time of the incident
  • Burst or blocked pipes, damaged roofs and old plumbing are main water damage culprits.

Australian homes could be at risk of internal water damage despite an uptick in residents working from home, with new research1 by QBE Insurance revealing that 77 per cent of people who experienced water damage were home at the time of the incident, unraveling misconceptions that flooding mostly occurs while out of the home.

According to the research, internal water damage is also surprisingly common, with 58 per cent of survey respondents having experienced internal water damage themselves, know someone who has, or both.

This is reflected in QBE claims data^, which found water damage incidents account for almost a quarter (24%) of all home insurance claims, making it one of QBE’s most common home insurance claims, with the average claim coming in at $5,000, and more severe claims reaching over half a million dollars.

Preparedness and prevention are key to limiting the potential damage caused by internal water damage, says Arron Mann, General Manager, Short Tail Claims at QBE.

“Water damage can happen whether a household member is home or not – in fact, being home more often, as many of us are right now, can actually increase the pressure on our plumbing and risk to our homes.

“This kind of damage can also be sudden and severe regardless of whether you’re home or not, which is why prevention, and knowing what to do when something goes awry, are so valuable.”

Despite 53 per cent of research respondents saying their first response to water damage would be turning off the water main, 1 in 5 Aussies (21%) don’t know where their water main is, and worryingly, 1 in 5 (18%) also don’t know how to turn it off.

The research also revealed that almost 30 per cent of Australians don’t know what home maintenance tasks can prevent water damage in their homes, with 16 per cent not knowing that home maintenance can prevent it in the first place. Cost is also a factor, with 21 per cent not undertaking any home maintenance because it’s too expensive, while eight per cent say they don’t have the time.

“Sometimes the difference between no damage and severe damage can be in how quickly a householder responds. Yet concerningly, many people are unaware that much of this damage - and the stress and cost that comes with it - is often preventable,” says Mr. Mann.

According to the research, the most likely causes of water damage include:

  • Burst or blocked pipes, which account for 46 per cent of water damage, and are the leading causes of water damage according to QBE claims data.
  • Damaged roofs, which account for 27.2 per cent of water damage instances.
  • Old or worn-out plumbing, accounting for 27.2 per cent of instances.
  • Overflowing baths, sinks and showers, responsible for 13.4 per cent.
  • Clogged drains accounted for a further 13.4 per cent.
  • Flexi hoses, at 8.2 per cent of instances.

To lower risk, households should take simple precautions, understand tell-tale water damage signs, and conduct regular home maintenance:

  • Keep on top of any wear and tear with a home maintenance checklist.
  • Organise an annual home health check to make sure everything’s in working order – and to enable you to make wear and tear repairs before they turn into something more serious.
  • Know where your water mains are and how to turn the water supply off.
  • Turn off the mains before leaving on a holiday, and have someone you trust check in on your home.
  • Conduct regular visual inspections of sealants and grout – for example, when cleaning.
  • Check flexi hoses every two months for moisture and signs of damage.
  • Check you have adequate home and contents insurance cover and that the sum insured, the value of replacing your house and contents, is up to date.
  • In the event of an incident make sure everyone is safe, turn off water at the mains to prevent any further damage, and contact a plumber and your insurance company as soon as possible.

Michael Bennett, General Manager at Master Plumbers NSW, said that knowing what signs of damage to look for around areas with liquids, and seeking professional assistance when unsure, could help prevent serious water damage.

“Quite often, plumbers are called out when there’s already been a significant water event and the damage has been done, yet when we arrive to fix it, we often find the signs were there that repairs were needed.

“We encourage homeowners to be proactive in their home maintenance and establish a relationship with their local plumber before an incident occurs for an assessment of their plumbing, information on what wear and tear looks like and what homeowners can do about it, and when to call a plumber before things get serious – and costly.”

Sometimes, despite preparation efforts, an unforeseeable water damage event can happen. A fast response and insurance cover can make a world of difference to the impact and cost incurred to families in these scenarios, says Mann.

“Home insurance can offer important financial protection and cover the cost of repairs and temporary accommodation for insured events, but even if you have cover, the emotional and psychological cost can be significant. Major water damage cases can see families displaced from homes while repairs are carried out and important sentimental items and memories lost forever – it can be devastating.”

It’s also important to remember that insurance is there to help cover losses and damages from the unexpected rather than general wear and tear, says Mann.

“Wear and tear, such as a leaking pipe that becomes a more significant problem over time, may not be covered by your home insurance. So, maintaining your home – alongside insurance and other protection measures - are important investments worth considering.”

For more information:

Emily Connell
External Communications Specialist
QBE Australia
+61 422 907 484

QBE Australia
PO Box 82, GPO Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
telephone +61 2 9375 4035  facsimile +61 2 9231 6104

1 Polling study of 1,011 Australians, aged 18-65, completed for QBE Insurance Australia in June 2021
^ Analysis of QBE claims data 2018 - 2021