Top tips to avoid the 48% claims increase in oil leaks in oil-fuelled homes

  • Homeowners with oil-fired central heating encouraged to check tanks
  • Extensive underground leaks causing environmental damage are increasing
  • Around 1.5 million UK properties are powered by oil systems
  • Claim hotspots include Northern Ireland, East Anglia, Swansea, Oxfordshire and Scotland

Residents with oil-fuelled properties are being urged to check their tanks, as Aviva reveals a 48% increase in UK oil leak claims between 2019 and 2020.

The rise is thought to be partly because oil-fired heating system materials used in the 1960s and ‘70s may be reaching the end of their expected lifespan.

Further analysis of Aviva’s claims data reveals more than half (53%) of incidents were due to failures in pipework, while around a fifth (22%) of claims were caused by tank failures. Further claims came as a result of boiler failures (6%), accidental damage - such as drilling through pipes - (5%) and storm damage (3%).

The Aviva insights also show the average cost of putting right damage caused by oil leaks has almost doubled since 2018, from around £16,000 to £30,000 in 2020. This is because more escape of oil claims have occurred underground when concealed pipework has burst or leaked, requiring extensive clean-up operations. Owners should be aware that pressure-testing can help to ensure pipes below the ground are in good working order (see advice below).

In addition to the inconvenience and disruption caused by oil leaks, there can be a huge environmental impact. As well as seeping into the ground, it can pollute waterways, cause harm to wildlife and contaminate drinking water.

An estimated 1.5 million UK properties are powered by oil-fired heating systems, the majority being in rural areas where there is no access - or limited access - to mains gas.

The majority of Aviva’s oil leak claims have occurred in Northern Ireland, accounting for around a third of incidents since 2017. Further oil claim hotspots include East Anglia, Swansea, Scotland and Oxfordshire.

Dave Lovely, Claims Director, General Insurance, Aviva says: “As well as being harmful to the environment, escapes of oil can be very disruptive and distressing for homeowners. Depending on the size of the leak, the clean-up process can take several weeks or even months, so it’s definitely a case of prevention being better than the cure.

“We have seen a notable increase in claims for escapes of oil since 2019, so we’d encourage all people with oil-fired systems to carry out regular checks to ensure leaks and potential damage are kept to a minimum.”

Aviva has the following advice for residents with oil-powered heating systems:

  • Position your tank as far away from drains, ponds and waterways as possible.
  • Perform regular inspections on tanks and pipework: Residents should inspect their own tanks regularly and tanks should be serviced by an Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) technician at least once a year.
  • Pressure-test your pipework at least every five years, or preferably more often. One of the biggest causes of “escape of oil” claims is down to underground pipework failure. This can’t be spotted by visual inspection, which is why pressure testing is recommended.
  • Keep an eye on how much oil is being used. If this suddenly increases it could be a sign of a leak.
  • A catchpit can provide extra protection. Although not a legal requirement in most cases, a catchpit that sits around the oil tank offers an extra safeguard as it can help to contain any leakage or spillage of oil.
  • Check your home insurance to ensure that it provides adequate cover in the event of an oil leak.
  • Don’t allow your tank to be over-filled and don’t order more oil than you can store safely.

Authored by Aviva



About Aviva

Aviva Insurance Limited is one of the UK’s leading insurance companies, part of the Aviva group with 34 million customers Worldwide. Aviva Insurance has been in the insurance business for more than 300 years.

In UK commercial, the insurance market remains challenging for insurance brokers and customers, due to the ongoing economic conditions. Aviva Insurance are focusing on improving our processes to ensure Aviva provide commercial customers with insurance cover at an acceptable price. Insurance brokers also recognised our excellent customer service by voting us Insurance Times General Insurer of the Year in 2012, for the second year running. youTalk-insurance sharing Aviva insurance news and video.

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