What To Do When You Find a Leak

Most people's first instinct when they discover a leak inside or outside of their house is PANIC! Well, that has always been my initial response, including this weekend when my husband woke me with the joyous news that we had a rather large and unexpected puddle in the garden. There isn't actually a swan or ducks swimming in it.....yet. Insert huge sigh here.

My advice to any homeowner or tenant would be find out what to do in such a situation BEFORE it happens to you. The way to approach a leak very much depends on where it is and sometimes the lines are not as obvious as you'd think.

If the leak is in the street it's almost the local water company you need to inform. There will be a number or email address to report it to. Don't assume someone else has reported it - they might all be thinking the same. My local water provider, Thames Water, has a section on their website where you can check if someone has already reported issues like leaks and low pressure in the area.

If the leak is in your house that is not generally an issue for the water company. Either contact a plumber or your landlord if you are a tenant.

This includes council tenants - call the council and report the issue. It might be that they will arrange and pay for the leak to be fixed if it costs under a certain amount (currently £250) and it wasn't your fault. If you drilled through a water pipe, bad luck. It's your responsibility to get it fixed and pay for it.

If you are an owner/occupier ask friends and family for recommendations or research companies you find online or in the newspaper checking that their qualifications and industry organisation membership certificates are genuine and up to date. There are websites like the Homeowner Alliance which will list registered members.

Ask if the work done has any form of guarantee and don't pay for the whole job up front. Ask for clear guidance about what the work includes - some don't "make good",  for instance which can be a pain if they've just dug up your path and refuse to resurface it.

If the leak appears to be on your property, in the garden or driveway for example, it is probably worth ringing your water supplier. They may offer to come and assess it for free and give advice and a list of recommended repair people. In some cases they may offer to pay, or help pay for the repair or offer a repayment scheme. Each company has different offers and rules so call or go online to find out what  your supplier offers.

If your leak involves dirty water from the sewage system for example don't panic. Your repair team can use efficient dirty water pumps to clean up any mess. These are also vital pieces of equipment in case of river floods and if you are regularly hit by these I would invest in your own pump! I lived in a rented house with a cellar which flooded every winter and our landlord always had to hire one just when everyone else in the area was trying to do the same thing.

You can get insurance packages to cover you for leaks. However many have ambiguous wording so be very clear about what you are paying for. You might find yours doesn't cover accidental damage or wear and tear which might leave you with a big bill despite paying years of premiums.

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