Despite concerns about leaking pipes, people in Estonia ignore the warning signs

[Dagmar Gilden | 29.06]

An insurance survey conducted by Seesam has revealed that the type of water-related damage most feared by people in Estonia is that arising from pipes, followed by incidents involving household appliances and devices. For those who live in apartment buildings, the greatest fear is accidents caused by their neighbours.

Dagmar Gilden, the product manager for Seesam’s home insurance, says statistics show that these fears are justified: the most common types of damage caused by water are leaks from pipes and hoses. Such incidents account for a fifth of household damage claims each year on average in Seesam and for a third of payouts. They are followed by rainwater damage, leaks from appliances and cases of human error.

Gilden says the biggest single payout last year was caused by a relatively small device. “A handheld shower coming apart led to more than 50,000 euros in damage,” she reveals. “In an apartment, the highest amount that was paid out for water damage was 15,000 euros when a pipe burst in a neighbour’s massage bath and caused quite the flood. A broken washing machine valve caused almost as much damage, with a claim for 12,000 euros. Water-related accidents in private homes tend to lead to losses twice the size on average of those in apartments, up to 2800 euros.”

Old pipes and problems that warn you in advance

The average losses incurred due to leaky pipes are around 1700 euros in the case of apartments, with an average of 2000 euros having to be paid out to downstairs neighbours. “Any losses incurred by people in downstairs apartments are liable to be covered by the owner of the upstairs apartment in which the damage started whether or not said owner has insurance,” Gilden explains. “The final amount depends on how long the water continues to flow and on the quality of the finishing in the neighbour’s apartment. If you know they have herringbone parquet and the like and that it cost them a lot of money, then you should review your insurance policy and how much liability cover it provides.”

Leaking pipes can cause significant damage if, for example, a connector pipe on a washing machine breaks on a higher floor of an apartment building and the water floods a number of apartments on lower floors, damaging the interior of the apartments and property therein.

Gilden says that the cause of most incidents involving pipes and hoses is their age, but some damage is also due to construction and installation errors. She adds that losses usually pertain to rising mains and pipes jointly owned by all residents of a building, which is why water damage should always be reported to the representative of the apartment association as well.

Although problems with pipes tend to make themselves known in advance, Gilden says that in her experience people fail to heed these warnings or simply hope that the gurgling or dripping will somehow resolve itself.

“A seemingly innocent trickle or drip from a mixer tap is a red flag that the tap is past its prime, while creaking and banging sounds when you turn a tap are a sign that an incident is very likely to occur, as are gurgling in a drain, and slower drainage itself,” she notes. “And if the water coming out of a tap is dirty or smelly, then you definitely know the pipes have had their day. The pressure hoses on washing machines should be checked from time to time as well, since the manufacturers only tend to give them a five-year warranty. With the onset of cold weather, make sure the temperature in your technical room is kept at a suitable level using a reliable thermostat or anti-freeze solution for pipes, and that the pipes have the thermal insulation they need. Whatever else you do, don’t try to thaw any frozen pipes on your own – contact a specialist. Moreover, if you want to extend the life of your pipes, the Estonian Insurance Association recommends avoiding excessive damp in buildings, ensuring that pipes are properly supported and heated and guaranteeing access to them so that they can be regularly checked. And if you get any work done on them, supervise it and make sure it meets all standards and competence requirements. For my part, these are very much my own recommendations as well.”

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Insurance is provided by Compensa Vienna Insurance Group, ADB Estonian Branch, which operates under the Seesam trademark in Estonia. Before concluding policies, please read the terms and conditions at and consult an expert if needed.
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