With extreme weather events happening more frequently than ever, it seems like every other month the headlines are full of heatwaves or heavy floods. 

If you live in an area with an increasing flood risk, you might be wondering whether your structural building warranty will help to cover the repair costs if your property ends up flooding.

Unfortunately, the quick answer to this question is probably no – unless water was able to penetrate and damage your building due to a structural defect that dates back to its original construction.

So, what does this mean for your peace of mind? When can you rely on your structural warranty, and when will you need to make a home insurance claim instead?

This blog explains the difference between the two when it comes to water damage, and why it’s so important to have both a building warranty and home insurance set up.

When does water damage fall under home insurance?

Accidental water damage can have a variety of causes that have nothing to do with the building’s structure. Most of the time, it’s due to a failure of the owner’s responsibilities to maintain the home. 

For example, water build-up can lead to damage if you neglect to clean out rain gutters when they’re clogged. Similarly, moisture could cause damp and mould indoors if you don’t use proper ventilation – or rain could get inside if pests are left untreated and make holes in the exterior walls or roof.

In these cases, where you’re at fault for the damage yourself, it’s likely that neither a building warranty nor a home insurance policy would pay out for repairs if you tried to make a claim.

However, if damage is caused by a third party that you aren’t directly responsible for – such as a vandal, burglar, the weather, or an accidental fire – then your home insurance policy might cover it. Sometimes extreme weather like floods from heavy rain is seen as an ‘act of God’ or force majeure and can be excluded from insurance policies, so be sure to check before you sign your contract.

So, if water from outside of your control has caused damage to your property, consult your home insurance to see whether the specific cause is included or excluded. It’s best to have both buildings insurance for the building itself and contents insurance for your belongings, to cover all bases.

When is water damage caused by a structural defect?

Latent defects insurance, which is another name for a structural building warranty, comes into the picture much earlier than home insurance. When you buy a newly built or renovated property from a builder or developer, they should pass an existing building warranty on to you as the new owner.        

This policy should have been in place from the start of the construction work, reducing the risk of structural problems popping up later through regular comprehensive inspections of the building.                                                    

They aren’t legally required to have set this up, and you can potentially do it yourself when you buy the building from them (though it’s a red flag if they haven’t). The point of the policy is to provide 2 years of mechanical defects cover and a further 8 years of structural defects cover from the date that construction was certified complete, but to have confirmed the quality of the work and building regulation compliance by having a chartered surveyor inspect and assess the work as it was ongoing.

If a problem was overlooked with a mechanical or structural element, which was allowed to worsen enough to later let water into your home and cause enough damage to require repairs or serious replacement work, then this would fall under the coverage of your building warranty. For example, water could get into the building through the foundations, walls, or roof because of errors with:

  • Site investigations 
  • Damp-proofing
  • Foundation depth
  • Wall cavity width
  • Cement cavity bridges
  • Wall ties and closures
  • Mortar strength
  • Trusses and bracings
  • Insulation materials
  • Door and window seals
  • Flashings, gutters, chimneys, etc

This isn’t a complete or detailed list, but if water damage in your home was caused by any of these examples, it’s likely that you can successfully make a building warranty claim for structural damage.

Can you claim for water damage on a structural warranty?

You can make a structural warranty claim for water damage if the water has caused parts of the structure to deteriorate or made it unsafe to live in, and the source of this issue was a mistake made during the design or construction stage by any of the architects, builders, and contractors involved.

The important thing to remember about building warranties is that they apply to the building and its core structure – which means that while a claim could pay out for repairing water damage to the structure as a result of a latent defect, this claim wouldn’t cover anything else the water damaged.

This is why it’s essential to make sure that any home you buy and live in has a comprehensive building warranty and a tailored home insurance plan. Your structural warranty won’t cover your furnishings and personal possessions, while your home insurance won’t cover problems with the building’s construction – so you need both to make sure that everything is appropriately covered.

If you don’t have these policies, you could find yourself footing an expensive bill if the worst should happen and water ruins your home. While personal belongings can have irreplaceable sentimental value and electronics cost a lot to replace, structural damage can run up an even bigger price list. 

So, why put yourself in that position of emotional and financial stress? You can reduce the risks of a poorly built home letting water in by purchasing from a reliable seller who can not only provide a thorough waterproofing report but also a building warranty – then reduce the expense of replacing water-damaged items if it ever does happen by setting up a thorough home insurance plan yourself.