Did You Know…? Insurance Risk Management Tips #1: Water Damage

FS Insurance Brokers,FirstService Residential
May 27, 2016

Living in a strata building allows for many benefits, and also presents special considerations. Insurance-related property damage and liability exposures can have serious consequences if a strata lot owner is unprepared. In this insurance series, we explore common exposures and ways to prevent and mitigate damage.

In part 1, we will focus on risk management tips for water-related damage. Water damage is the most frequent source of claims and can leave owners with immense expenses, and/or force occupants of the source and neighbouring units temporarily out of their homes.  

Did you know that most units have up to 10 or more water connections, including the washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator/ice maker, bathtub, shower, sprinkler heads, hot water tank, faucets and more? Each of these connections has the potential to leak. If your unit is found to be the source of a leak that causes water damage, you may be held responsible. Fast action is imperative once a leak occurs, in order to prevent or at least minimize damage.

Here are some prevention strategies:

  • Know the location of your in-suite water shut-offs and immediately turn off the water supply if you discover a leak.
  • Use a water leak detection device to monitor appliances or piping that can leak, or contract a servicing company to do so. These devices are great for areas that are difficult to inspect frequently.
  • Winterize hose bibs as needed.
  • Replace rubber appliance supply hoses with steel braided hoses.
  • Dishwashers can leak from the front or back of the appliance – visually inspect the rubber gasket around the inside edge of the door and replace if cracked or worn.
  • Avoid flushing foreign object down toilets.
  • Ensure your tile grout is properly sealed.

Sprinkler Heads

Did you know... that a single sprinkler head can release more than 75 litres of water per minute, enough to fill a hot tub in 10 minutes? In just a short time, this much water can cause major damage to your unit, as well as units beside or below you. However, it is extremely rare for sprinkler heads to spontaneously burst. Human error is the cause of most unintentional sprinkler activation. Follow these tips when it comes to the sprinkler heads in your unit:

  • Do not hang anything from your sprinkler line or heads. This includes electrical cords, cables, candle holders, clothing and hangers.
  • Keep an 18-inch clearance between the sprinkler head and items underneath to allow proper disbursement of water.
  • Make sure you have insurance coverage to protect against damages to your personal unit and property.

Washing Machines

Did you know... that malfunctioning supply hoses for your washing machine can result in some of the most common water damage claims filed by homeowners? Water can discharge at a rate of up to 1,900 litres per hour, causing major losses to your home and any adjacent units. Here are some tips for preventing washing machine related losses:

  • Use steel-braided supply hoses and inspect them often for damage.
  • Use only detergent appropriate for the type of washer you have – for example, high-efficiency washers need high efficiency detergents to prevent sudsing and backflow.
  • Use a water leak detection system.
  • Allow three to four inches between the hose connection and the wall.
  • Replace hoses every three to five years or sooner based on usage.
  • Maintain insurance to protect yourself and your contents.


Did you know... that a slow leak may go undetected for years, leading to huge water damage claims? Many leaks are visible, but a good majority are hidden and you should take appropriate action to properly inspect. Water pooling, mold, mildew and damage to neighbouring units are common results of leaking dishwashers. Use the following tips to help prevent dishwasher related losses:

  • Visually inspect the rubber gasket around the inside edge of the door and replace if cracked or worn.
  • Use steel-braided supply hoses and inspect them often for damage.
  • Consider installing a water leak detection system for hard-to-reach areas: pumps, valves, etc.
  • Only use detergents specifically formulated for dishwashers; avoid detergents that create suds
  • Keep the drain basket clean.

Finally, condo owners should maintain unit owner’s coverage. Insurance will cover you, your contents, improvements to your unit, and damage to neighbouring units. It is estimated that only 50 per cent of owners across Metro Vancouver carry insurance – even though, as we can see, unit owners have unique insurance exposure due to the nature of strata living. Any experience of loss can be stressful to those parties involved. To lessen the financial impact and protect owners as much as possible, adequate loss prevention and insurance should be a part of every unit owner’s strategy.

Next time: risk management tips for smoke alarms, space heaters and sewers 

DISCLAIMER: All information provided by FS Insurance Brokers is advisory in nature. Any such information may not identify or contemplate all unsafe conditions; others may exist. FS Insurance Brokers does not imply, guarantee or warrant the safety of any of the client’s properties or operations or that the client or any such properties or operations are in compliance with all federal, provincial, or local laws, codes, statutes, ordinances, standards or recommendations. All decisions in connection with the implementation, if any, of any of FS Insurance Brokers’ advice or recommendations shall be the sole responsibility of, and made by, the client or other recipient of the information.