Brendan came home from a fortnight’s holiday and found water damage in his ground-floor living room. The carpet was soaking wet and the walls were damp and stained.

What happened

Brendan called an emergency plumber. The plumber couldn’t find any sign of a leaking pipe, but he did confirm that water was coming up through the floor and into the walls. He thought that the water had been steadily building up in the void under the floor and this was probably because of a rise in the water table. He then gave Brendan a quote to make some repairs. 

Brendan called his insurer to make a claim for flood damage, as this was included in his home insurance policy. The insurer sent a surveyor to investigate the damage. Following this, it declined Brendan’s claim. It said the damage wasn’t covered by the policy, because the surveyor couldn’t find any evidence of a leaking pipe and there hadn’t been enough rainfall for there to have been a flood. Brendan thought this was unfair, so he complained to us.

What we looked at

We looked at the reports and photos from Brendan’s plumber and the insurer’s surveyor. We also checked what the policy covered. Escape of water from a pipe was covered, but the plumber and surveyor both said there was no evidence of this. The policy also covered flood damage, but it didn’t give a definition of what a ‘flood’ is. We considered whether a flood had happened in this case. 

Our decision

The evidence supported that there had been a gradual build-up of water, so we thought that this did constitute a flood. It didn’t need to have happened because of heavy rain or another ‘force of nature’. And although the damage was gradual, there was nothing to suggest Brendan could have been aware of it until the water had come into the house. As the damage in living room looked recent in the photos, we thought Brendan had made his insurer aware of the problem as soon as he’d reasonably became aware of it. So we told the insurer to pay the claim.