The UK storm season begins at the end of the summer in September and ends in August the following year, says the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. In other words, pretty much year-round.1

We’ve become used to the new system of naming storms, but don’t be fooled into thinking that unnamed events don’t have potential to cause damage to your building.  Relentless, but not storm-level rain, eventually causes damage, and poor maintenance is discovered, then your buildings might not be fully covered by insurance.

…and relentless rain is what we’ve been having!  You probably don’t need us, or the Met Office, to confirm that this winter is in the top 10 warmest and top 10 wettest for the UK2. And UK winters become wetter as temperatures warm up. It makes sense to plan preventive maintenance to keep buildings waterproof.

Remember, buildings insurance policy is for sudden and unexpected events like storm damage to a roof, a burst pipe or accidental overflow. It is not a maintenance contract covering water ingress due to poor building care.

Insurance companies protect their policy holders from ‘perils’. While these will often include water damage, a peril is deemed to be sudden and couldn’t have been prevented. So, water damage following a storm that damages your home would be covered. Damage caused by water seeping through a rotten, neglected window frame for months or years, or a roof tile that fell off years ago has been missing for years would not.

What counts as a storm?

A storm is defined by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) as a period of violent weather with one or more of 3

  • wind gusts of at least 48 knots (55mph),
  • torrential rainfall at a rate of at least 25mm per hour,
  • Snow to a depth of at least one foot (30 cm) in 24 hours, and
  • Hail of such intensity that it causes damage to hard surfaces or breaks glass.

However, if an insurance company discovers, during their investigations, that water has been allowed to change course or build up over time, perhaps due to blocked or broken guttering, they could refuse or reduce claim even after a violent storm, because the damage was preventable through proper maintenance.

They will also not cover water ingress which has been allowed to build up due to lack of maintenance and all policies require home and business owners to keep on top of general property maintenance. It’s important to keep your roof, walls, doors, windows, guttering etc in good condition.

It is especially important that you undertake any work identified by an insurance survey, especially those marked as urgent. Your broker partner should help you to keep on top of this by reminding you to get jobs done on time! They should be there for you all year round, not just at renewal time.

Water ingress and escape of water

  1. Your policy wording will detail exactly the causes that your insurance covers. Bear in mind that an ‘escape of water’ is not a catch all. It is different from ‘water ingress’.Water ingress: This is water making its way into a building. It can be due to sudden storm damage but often occurs due to some sort of defect in the property, such as a leaking roof and cracks that allow the water to penetrate the property.Water ingress can lead to a host of damp related issues including dry rot and mouldy interior walls – and very unhappy leaseholders – that are not covered by their buildings insurance.It also includes water from outdoors, such as floodwater from a river.

    Escape of water: This is water from inside the building due to sudden leaks and bursts or accidents.

    Repeated claims for escape of water may inevitably lead to insurers insisting on higher policy excesses, or even declining escape of water cover, so not keeping on top of maintenance is a false economy. Accidents do happen but do ask all leaseholders to keep an eye of small drips from ill-fitted pipes and hoses that can go un-noticed until the ceiling falls in downstairs!

    Bear in mind that some insurers won’t cover damage caused by carelessness leading to overflowing baths or water damage because of poor seals around baths or showers.  So, everyone needs to pull together to reduce the risk of escape of water at all and, if the worst happens, to know what to do to make sure damage is minimal.

    Find out more about escape of water and emergency assistance.



    The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.