Tower translates: Gradual damage
What does it mean for your house policy?
Your policy covers you for loss
Your house or contents insurance policy is designed to cover you for sudden and accidental physical loss or damage.
If you make a claim on your house or contents insurance, you'll need to prove to us that the damage was caused suddenly and accidentally. Pictures of the damage can often help with this.
The nature of gradual damage means that the damage doesn’t occur suddenly – even if you've suddenly discovered the damage. Which means you may find it hard to evidence the sudden, accidental damage.
It’s important you understand what this means for your cover, any potential claims, and how to help prevent gradual damage so this can all be avoided.
Understanding gradual damage
Gradual damage happens over a period of time, or gradually. Gradual damage can be caused by a number of things like wear and tear, mould, a slow leaking pipe, rot, or corrosion.
What is covered under my policy?
Gradual damage is a policy exclusion. This means your policy doesn't provide cover for gradual damage. There is an exception though, and that's when the automatic gradual damage benefit applies.
This benefit means we’ll pay for some of the repair of gradual damage to your insured house or contents, if it's caused by the leaking, overflowing or dispensing of a water supply pipe or hose, water disposal pipe or hose or water supply tank.
This benefit will only cover you for a set amount, depending on your policy. That amount can help towards paying to repair the damage, but it's often not enough to pay for the damage in full. There are also certain conditions, exclusions and limits, that apply to this benefit, so make sure you read your policy document to find out more. If you're unsure, get in touch and one of our team will be happy to talk you through it.
Some of the conditions and exclusions include that the damage was not visible, noticeable or obvious, and the leak wasn’t in a shower base, shower recess or shower cubicle.
Examples of gradual damage
How the automatic gradual damage benefit applies
Tom’s hot water cylinder is stored in his attic space that he doesn’t often go to. Recently, he noticed a small water stain on the ceiling in the room below the cylinder. A few days later, the stain had grown substantially. After investigating, Tom realised that one of the pipes from the hot water cylinder had begun to leak, allowing water to escape over time. As the damage to the property had occurred over a period of time, it’s considered gradual damage. However, the damage is because of a leaking water supply pipe, and so the automatic gradual damage benefit may apply and help towards covering the cost of the damage.
How the gradual damage exclusion applies
Sam hasn’t renovated their bathroom since they purchased their property some time ago. They use the shower every day and recently noticed that the floorboards underneath and around the shower had become soft and spongy. Sam realised that the seal around the shower base had become loose and partly disintegrated. As a result, water had been escaping into the floorboards for some time. Since the damage had occurred over a period of time and was in the shower base, it's gradual damage and therefore the damage would generally not be covered by insurance.
How sudden damage and gradual damage can sometimes be linked
John’s fence was damaged in a recent storm where the fence fell over. Before to the storm, the fence hadn’t been properly maintained and the fence posts had been rotting away for some time. The main reason for the damage to the fence was because of the rotting fence posts. The rotting fence posts would therefore be considered gradual damage and wouldn't be covered by his insurance.
How can I help prevent issues that may occur from gradual damage?
Good news, there are things you can do to help prevent gradual damage from happening.
- When buying a property, get a building inspection report – so you know what maintenance has been done and what needs to be done.
- Look out for tell-tale signs, like something broken, odd stains and marks, mould, spongy floors, unusually high water bills, or unusual smells.
- Complete regular inspections of your property, including areas you don’t often access.
- Have somebody with the right skills to complete any maintenance – including routine maintenance.
Preventative maintenance is probably cheaper than having to fix damage that’s resulted from gradual damage, so it pays to stay on top of the little things before they cause more damage.