Local drainage system not covered by consumer’s policy

Buildings insurance Insurance

The insurer agreed with a consumer’s drainage company about the cause of the problem but, after scrutinising the evidence, we found that the system wasn’t covered.

What happened

Anthony discovered a problem with his drainage system and contacted his insurer. He’d started to notice a nasty smell in the house and a local drainage company had traced the problem to the soakaway at the end of his garden.

The company said it had become silted up, causing the water to drain very slowly. This meant the pipe leading to the soakaway was full of water, which was causing the smell.

The insurer accepted what the drainage company had found but rejected the claim. They said the policy didn’t cover soakaways and the damage had been caused gradually, so it would be excluded even if the soakaway was covered.

Anthony didn’t think it was right that the insurer should decline the claim without carrying out its own investigation.  He hadn’t noticed the odour previously, so the problem had happened suddenly. So, he made a complaint and, unhappy with the final response, he approached our service. 

What we said

We looked at the evidence, including checking Anthony’s policy. It said it covered "accidental damage to cables, pipes, septic tanks and drain inspection covers". The policy’s definition of accidental damage was "damage caused suddenly and unexpectedly".

The report from Anthony’s drainage company mentioned a septic tank soakaway, so we spoke to them to find out more about what they’d seen and how it worked. They explained the drainage led from the house to a septic tank, designed to break down any waste material. The leftover water then drained into a soakaway, a collection of loose materials and small stones in the ground.

We asked whether the septic tank or any of the pipework leading up to the soakaway was damaged or blocked. They said the main problem was with the soakaway, which had also caused the septic tank to become blocked.

Anthony had already arranged for a drainage company to make a thorough inspection so we didn’t think the insurer needed to do another one.

Based on our discussion with the drainage company and the policy wording, we didn’t think the problem with the soakaway was covered by the policy because it couldn’t be described as a pipe or septic tank. We thought it was fair for the insurer to decline the claim.