We always bring Trace and Access cover to the attention of our customers. Some policies - not those provided by Deacon - do not include it, but we think it can be essential for a shared building like a block of flats.
In any property, the apparent damage from a leak or breakage may be some distance from the cause. A small wear-and-tear leak from a drain pipe or appliance hose, for instance, may insidiously drip for years and work its way through the fabric of the building. Then one day, maybe years later, the people downstairs may notice a brown stain on their ceiling.
On its way to a neighbour’s ceiling, water could damage plaster walls, timber skirting boards, kitchen cupboards, electrical cables, and more, in several flats. If there is visible damage to these items (which are considered to be part of the building) then your buildings insurance policy should cover the costs of making good, but probably not the cost of repairing the broken pipe itself, unless it had been broken by an insured risk such as impact or accidental damage, and not through wear and tear.
A pipe repair is a relatively small and inexpensive job for the leaseholder concerned but, and it can be a big but, if you don’t have Trace and Access cover on the policy, the insurance may not cover you for what can be the far greater costs of finding the leak and repairing damage.
The underlying principle here is that an insurance policy can only provide cover if actual damage has occurred as the result of an event: in this example that means the actual leak, not the repair process.
Some materials, e.g. ceramic floor tiles, are designed to withstand being immersed in water and therefore can be dried out again without sustaining damage. So, if they are not actually damaged as a direct result of an escape of water, then without Trace and Access cover there could be no claim under the policy - even if they had been dug up and broken beyond repair in the search for the source of the leak.
Similarly, if the plumber looking for the source of the leak needed to excavate part of the concrete floor to try and trace the source of the leak then the costs of repairing the concrete floor (labour and materials) would not be covered.
It is likely to be a very different story if you have Trace & Access cover. This only applies, of course, if there has been some damage to the building as the result of the leak. In other words, Trace and Access is not a way of covering the costs of plumbing maintenance.
The damage would not necessarily need to be to the tiling, vinyl or concrete floor itself but to another part of the building (walls or skirting board, for instance), which had been damaged by water from the same leak.
Trace and Access cover under the policy would usually include the cost of the replacing the flooring up to the limit stated in the policy. If the vinyl flooring was only stuck down at the edges or loose-laid and could be lifted without damaging it, then there would be no claim for the cost of the flooring if it could be re-used - but the cost of any adhesive and labour to remove and relay the vinyl would be considered.
It is also worth pointing out that Trace and Access cover is typically specific to damage from a burst or leaking pipe in a fixed water/heating installation. If it was found to be from rainwater penetration through a faulty window, door, wall or roof then there would be no cover for Trace and Access.
In summary, policies provided by Deacon mean you should have cover for the worst case scenario, but no-one wants the misery of water damage. Do you, and individual leaseholders, give the plumbing in your building a regular health check?
Alan Vine is Technical Manager at Deacon, block of flats insurance specialists