Are blocked gutters covered by insurance?

SHAY WARAKER

In many areas of Australia, we can experience heavy rain events – whether it is over a number of days, or a mass deluge in one afternoon. But if the rain sets in and you find your house gutters overflowing, this can cause damage to your property.

We investigate whether damage caused by overflowing gutters is likely to be covered by your home insurance policy and what steps you could take to prevent it from happening.

If damage occurs due to leaking or overflowing gutters, is it covered by insurance?

The answer to whether damage caused by water leaking from your gutters is it depends. It depends on whether the gutters were in full working order prior to the weather event and whether the damage was gradual. In other words – had you been maintaining your gutters?

Make sure to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) for your policy to understand what is and is not covered. In general, here’s an overview about what may and may not be covered with home insurance policies:

What may be covered

At the time of writing, all home insurance policies on Canstar’s database include cover for ‘escape of liquid’. For example, Suncorp states it provides cover for damage that is caused by water that is leaking, overflowing or bursting from drains, fixed pipes, roof gutters or guttering and rainwater downpipes, drainage and sewage systems. This is usually linked to sudden and unexpected damage, such as a tree falling on the roof. 

What may not be covered

While most home insurance policies will provide cover for water damage, there is often a clause that excludes damage that could have been prevented, had reasonable maintenance been performed regularly.  This includes gutters that:

  • are blocked by leaves or debris 
  • are leaking gradually over time, without measures being taken to fix the issues
  • have surpassed their recommended lifespan without being replaced.

For example, AAMI states on its website that its home insurance policies do not cover damage caused by wear and tear, or neglected repair or maintenance issues that the policyholder would reasonably have been expected to have been aware of.

It is important to note that this damage may not be limited to the guttering. For example, blocked gutters can lead to a build-up of water and moisture in the roof, with potential for mould or internal roofing to collapse; or pooling of water at the foundation of the building, which could lead to cracks or structural damage. Any damage caused by guttering that was not well maintained based on reasonable expectations may not be covered by insurance.

Due to this, it is important that you regularly check the state of your guttering, know the end date of its suggested lifespan and regularly clean out any debris. If you are cleaning your gutters, it is important you follow safety protocols to avoid injury, or hire a roof plumber to assist you. Personal safety when working at heights to clean gutters is extremely important.

Tips to maintain your gutters

Owner of Grayson’s Gutter Cleaning, Grayson O’Connor, recommended cleaning gutters at least once a year, and not to leave it until it is raining. He also said safety was very important, and provided the following tips.

  1. Read the guidelines on the side of the ladder and follow them closely.
  2. Never skip rungs on the ladder when climbing up or down, as this could lead to slipping and is a common cause of injury.
  3. Ask someone to hold the ladder for you.
  4. Wear gloves to protect your hands.

The ACCC recommends never using a ladder if you are alone and provides a number of safety tips for DIYers on its website. Keep in mind falling from a ladder can lead to serious injury or death, and it is important to follow safety measures.

It could be a good idea to hire a reputable roofing plumber or professional to clean your gutters, as they are likely to have the safety equipment required and can let you know if any maintenance or repair work is required. You can find reviews and testimonials online for services near you.

Compare home insurance

It is a good idea to review your home and contents insurance policy to understand what is and is not covered.You can also compare policies with Canstar to find one that best suits your needs.

Cover image source: alenacepl/Shutterstock.com


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