The major cold spell in winter leaves its mark on buildings too. Water pipes can freeze and burst in unheated rooms or empty holiday homes. The effects only become apparent in spring when the defective pipes thaw and water escapes unimpeded. What insurance covers the consequential costs, and what can you do before the first frost arrives?
If the temperature in unused buildings is below zero for a long time, things happen quickly: The water pipes freeze and the volume inside them increases - the pipes often cannot withstand this pressure and burst. Most frost damage goes unnoticed. The rude awakening only occurs in the spring when the ice melts again and the water escapes through the leaks. Buildings such as holiday homes or holiday apartments in particular that are unoccupied for a long time as well as storage rooms and basements are affected by frost damage.
You should never try and thaw frozen pipes yourself. If the pipe is actually damaged, the water will otherwise escape freely and cause more damage. Turn off the water supply and contact your insurance company. They can advise you what to do next or arrange for a specialist such as a plumber.
Frost damage is not caused by natural hazards such as storm, flooding or rockfall, therefore cantonal buildings insurance does not pay in this case. It is covered by water damage insurance for buildings which can be taken out voluntarily. It covers the cost of thawing and repairing damaged water pipes, but also other damage which is normally much more extensive, i.e. the damage caused to the building by the leaking water.
If furniture, carpets or other furnishings are damaged by a leak, this is covered by household contents insurance. It covers the repair or replacement of damaged items as well as the cost of removing and disposing of the damaged goods. If the water damage is so extensive that the rooms are no longer habitable, the households contents insurance will even cover the cost of temporary accommodation.
Most frost damage is avoidable. Even if you’re well insured, you must take certain steps and comply with due diligence and obligation duties. Here are our tips:
If you as a tenant cause frost damage or share the responsibility, personal liability insurance covers the financial consequences. For example, if you breach your maintenance duty or do not observe your duty of care.
Comprehensive corporate property insurance is normally sufficient to be protected against frost damage too. Apart from fire, damage caused by natural forces, theft and water damage, corporate property insurance also covers loss of earnings. If expensive machinery is exposed to the cold in winter, it makes sense to take out additional engineering insurance.
Extreme cold not only affects water pipes but can also cause other damage. The following are options for insuring against this: