Insurance policies can be difficult to understand, and to really understand what they actually provide cover for. Whilst insurers are required to provide policy documents in language that should be easy to understand, it doesn’t mean that lengthy policy documents can be easily interpreted.
When it comes to underground services such as drainage systems, policy cover can be even more unclear. Many believe that home insurance policies simply provide cover for buildings, but the reality is that the majority of policies also provide cover for drainage systems connected to the property insured.
That’s the good news for property owners. The less positive news is that even if the policy states that it covers drainage systems, it might not cover ALL parts of it. And, in some instances, even if it does provide cover, the insurer may still decline the claim. Let’s look at why.
This is a really important question when considering whether a soakaway is covered by insurance. Generally speaking, a soakaway is a network of perforated or slotted pipework, which takes the wastewater from a septic tank or sewage treatment or septic tank. The soakaway enables the wastewater to percolate safely into the subsoils surrounding the pipework.
But terminology can be confusing! Sometimes a soakaway can also be referred to as a `drainage field’. And there are other things which can be referred to as a soakaway, for example:
As a general rule, insurance policies will cover you for accidental damage to underground services. And generally speaking, accidental damage means unforeseen or unexpected damage which prevents the system from functioning properly (some policies have their own definitions of accidental damage which are always worth checking before you take out any policies).
When it comes to soakaways, insurance policies will generally only provide cover for those which are made up of slotted or perforated pipework. A rubble filled pit is not considered a compliant form of soakaway, and if a crate system was in place then it would have been installed incorrectly.
It is important to remember that insurance policies provide cover for unforeseen events leading to damage – they don’t provide cover for soakaways which have:
The types of damage to a soakaway which would typically be covered by insurance would be:
The main challenge with soakaways is that they typically can’t be repaired, but they also can’t be replaced on a like-for-like basis, and certainly not in the same location as the damaged soakaway. This is because a properly constructed and installed soakaway relies on the surrounding sub-soils to safely percolate the waste water it carries from the tank into the ground without causing pollution.
Prior to a soakaway being installed, a percolation test must be carried out. A percolation test assesses the ground conditions specifically in the area in which the soakaway is intended to be located. It ensures that the ground has sufficient porosity for the wastewater to filter through. If the tank to which the soakaway is connected suffers from damage that affects its ability to separate or treat the waste from the property, this can result in solid waste particles leaving the tank and entering into the soakaway. These solid waste particles pass through the perforations or slots in the soakaway pipework and clog the surrounding subsoils. This means that the ground in which the soakaway is currently located is no longer suitable, and is the reason why a soakaway can’t be replaced in situ.
Alternatives would therefore need to be investigated for replacing a damaged soakaway. These could be:
Therefore, it’s unlikely that there would ever be like-for-like costs to replace a damaged soakaway, and often a more holistic view is required to determine what the best solution is for the property. A good insurer will cover the costs of replacing a damaged drainage system in whichever way is most appropriate to the property.
Even if you’re not currently experiencing soakaway problems, if your property has a septic tank it’s always a good idea to review the insurance cover you have in place. Unfortunately, off mains drainage systems can be very costly to replace!
Here are our top tips for making sure you have the right cover in place:
The UK Drainage Professionals team are experts both in managing insurance claims for property owners, and in installing septic tanks, soakaways and other off mains drainage systems. If you’re experiencing any septic tank problems or soakaway problems, contact our team today for expert friendly advice. We will quickly be able to determine whether you are likely to be covered, and if so we can manage everything from start to finish on your behalf. Why not complete our eligibility tracker today to find out if you’re covered?
Sam's career prior to UKDP was spent in the marketing and service industries, so she is focused on making sure we look after our customers – and getting the UKDP message out there! Sam has overall responsibility for business operations and for delivering the best customer service we can.