Water Leak Horror Stories:

Why Early Water Leak Detection Matters for Insurance Carriers

Why Early Water Leak Detection Matters for Insurance Carriers

Water Damage is a Staggering Problem for Insurance Carriers and Property Holders Alike

Which scenario sounds more likely to happen to a property: attempted theft or a water leak?

There is no doubt that a burglary can be devastating. However, insurance data shows that theft accounts for just one percent of insurance claims.

One of the most significant and costly risks facing real property is damage caused by water. According to the Insurance Information Institute, a staggering 29 percent of insurance claims in 2019 were for damage caused by water leaks and freezing and the cost of these claims is rising. The average homeowner loss has doubled to $11,098 since 2007. And to top it off, household water damage costs up to $20 billion annually across the U.S.

Damages for small businesses tend to be more expensive. According to , The Hartford, 15% of all claims from SMBs are from water damage and can cost commercial P&C carriers $17,000+ per claim.

At Notion, when we hear about a water leak from homeowners, it’s often followed with: “I never thought this would happen to me.” In fact, we’ve found that 84% of users have never monitored for water leaks before using Notion’s multifunctional sensors. And although water damage can run the gamut from minor to catastrophic, leaks can still cause major headaches, time lost on phone calls, and incurred loss to carriers.

The good news is that, for carriers, water leaks don’t have to feel like death by a thousand paper cuts. Technology exists to help notify policyholders when leaks occur and educate them on this peril, reducing the likelihood of high loss ratios due to water damage.

What you’re about to see next is chilling – read on to see how four policyholders react and deal with water leaks in different scenarios. Will they stop the leaks in time? And could smart home technology have helped this issue?

Water Damage is a Staggering Problem for Insurance Carriers and Property
                        Holders Alike

How Four Policyholders Respond to Chilling Water Leaks

Case 1
Case 1

A Cooling System Leak Spells Disaster for Chicago Homeowner

When Melissa bought her dream home in Chicago, she did everything right. She used a qualified home inspector to check out all the systems and she put together a home maintenance schedule that included seasonal HVAC checkups. However, one evening during the summer, Melissa got home from work to find water everywhere.

"There were several inches of water on the floor and my dog Cooper was soaking wet and very distressed," said Melissa. "He'd been running madly around the house, almost destroying the sofa and my bed. My floor rugs were sopping and the bottom of the drywall looked like it was starting to bulge. I just cried!"

With a bit of investigation, Melissa discovered the HVAC system was leaking. She immediately turned off the cooling equipment – it had been running to keep Cooper cool while she was at work - and called her HVAC company.

The technician explained that mold blocking the unit's condensation drain trap caused it to overflow. He estimated it was probably draining around three gallons of water an hour. He turned off the electricity and repaired the problem.

Melissa moved into an apartment while a restoration crew cleaned and dried the home and contractors replaced flooring, baseboards and some damaged drywall. It took four months before she could get back into her home.

*These scary stories are all fictional, but they’re based on real-life events.

Total costs for Melissa - $14,086

HVAC repair and labor cost


Mold remediation


Apartment rent (4 months)


New sofa & new carpet


If policyholders understand where their riskiest areas are and get notified when they have a water leak, they can immediately act to minimize the damage by shutting off the water main, calling a plumber, or simply cleaning up.

Many carriers that offer policies with complimentary sensor devices empower the owners of homes and businesses to monitor high-risk areas even when they are away. From the policyholder’s perspective, their insurance provider isn’t just the place to turn in a crisis, but a partner in home monitoring that will help them reduce potential damage to their valuables. At Notion, we’ve found that if policyholders keep sensors active, it can help reduce carrier loss related to water claims by 20%.

Case 2

A Water Heater Failure Causes Severe Structural Damage

Joel lives in Seattle and works as a banking industry consultant. When he returned from a multi-day business trip, Joel noticed water streaming from a basement window.

Concerned by the amount of water and the risk of getting an electric shock, Joel decided not to go into the house. Instead, he called the local fire department and his insurance company for assistance. The fire department turned off the utilities, and a water damage mitigation company was on-site within hours. They used submersible pumps to extract the water so they could enter the house and identify the source of the problem.

"My hot water tank had failed while I was away," said Joel. "It was like a swimming pool down there."

Despite the basement being built from cinder blocks, moisture had seeped into the rest of the home. The damp atmosphere damaged the floor joints, subfloor, and drywall of the rooms above the basement and mold was growing all over the house. A building engineer inspected the property and declared it structurally unsound. He calculated that it would be less expensive to rebuild than to try to repair the home.

Joel was able to retrieve many of his belongings, but soft furnishings such as mattresses and the sofa couldn't be salvaged. He lived in a furnished apartment for two years while his home was rebuilt. From insurance paperwork to creating a detailed inventory of his home's contents to selecting all the fixtures for the new building, it took countless hours of work and effort to put his life back together.

Case 2

*These scary stories are all fictional, but they’re based on real-life events.

Total costs for Joel - $464,596

Cutting and rebuilding house


Basement Cleanup


Storage unit fees


Apartment Rent


New water heater & installation


Many connected home apps, such as Notion’s, offer ways to connect with local certified plumbers to help resolve the issue quickly. With smart home technology, Joel could have been notified of a water leak in his basement. Then, even though he was away from home, he could’ve called a neighbor to check in on his home, he could’ve reached out to a plumber for immediate repair.

Case 3
Case 3

An Upstairs Laundry Almost Destroyed a Recent Home Renovation

When Eleanor and Jonathan decided to remodel their home to accommodate their growing family of triplets, a second-floor laundry was top of their list of wants. They installed a large capacity appliance in a re-purposed bedroom.

“My new laundry was perfect until the day it wasn’t,” said Eleanor.

“I'd just left the babies with my Mom for the afternoon. I remember opening my door to see a waterfall in the living room. It took me a few seconds to make sense of what was happening before I went to see what was causing all the water.”

Eleanor discovered the water was coming from the supply hose connected to the wall behind her new washer. She immediately turned off the water and tried to soak up the excess with towels, but it had already soaked everything through.

She called Johnathan so that he could alert the insurance company and come home to help with the clean-up. The two felt like they were lucky to discover the leak quickly. The insurance company called in a restoration company to dry out the house and clean the carpet. The family's remodeling contractor repaired the damaged ceiling.

*These scary stories are all fictional, but they’re based on real-life events.

Total costs for Eleanor and Jonathan - $9,899

Water Clean-up Service


Laundry Drywall Repair


Ceiling Repair


New Carpeting


New Washer


Making an insurance claim can be highly stressful for policyholders. In this case, with sensor technology, the Davies could’ve been notified about the leak, empowering them to call for help instead of dealing with a big headache.

Many carriers understand this and are starting to offer technology to help prevent a similar disaster from occurring in the future at the time of renewal or at the end of a major claim. This helps to create an opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a brand advocate.

Case 4

How a Leak Nearly Destroyed a Vibrant Media Agency

Laura and her partner Janel could not believe their luck when they found lower-level office space near Austin's warehouse district for their new digital agency.

Unfortunately, inside the walls of this early 20th-century structure, the plumbing system was in poor condition. In March, the pipes failed, and water cascaded from the first-floor men's bathroom. And since no one had been in the office in weeks due to the company’s work-from-home policy, the air felt sticky and humid inside.

"It was a disaster," said Laura. "The tenant on the upper floor discovered the burst pipe, and they turned off the water and power. But water flows downhill, so our office was a mess."

Dirty water trickled from the ceiling, pooled on the floor, and dripped from the computers. The office chairs and all the paperwork on the desks were sodden. Laura called her insurance provider and then met with her staff at a local coffee shop to discuss their next steps. Even though those with laptops and smartphones could work from home, the company would have to deal with the significant remodeling of their space.

If the company had some way to detect the leak earlier, they might have been able to save their equipment. It took several weeks to complete the repairs, dry the office and negotiate new computer-equipment leases. In the end, the insurance claim for the landlord totaled $180,000.

Case 4

*These scary stories are all fictional, but they’re based on real-life events.

Factors That Contribute to Claims Severity



A water leak event that’s handled quickly may require little more than wiping down surfaces.

Especially when properties are left empty for longer periods of time, water can be left unchecked, allowing water to sit.



In recent years, increased storm severity and weather changes have led to unexpected burst pipes and water damage for property owners.

In 2021 alone, this factor cost insurance companies $105B.

Aging Infrastructure

Aging Infrastructure

As buildings get older, they’re more likely to get into a state of disrepair, causing issues with broken pipes and unexpected water damage.

Top Three Advantages Carriers get with Smart Home Policies

Reduces Claim Severity to Improve Loss Ratios

1. Reduces Claim Severity to Improve Loss Ratios

Leaks can happen at any time, and those that occur when people are away from a building and go unchecked for hours or even days can cause extreme damage and lead to significant claims payouts. With Notion, water leak notifications are sent to the policyholder’s smartphone, allowing them to take the appropriate action without delay. In every one of the horror stories in this ebook, the amount of damage caused by the leak would have been less severe if the policyholder had known and acted on it sooner.

The Notion app, which users can access anytime from anywhere using their smartphones, puts people in touch with the properties where they live and work. This gives people peace of mind that things are okay, but it also helps keep maintenance top of mind. Policyholders who monitor for problems can become stewards of their homes and workplaces and help reduce risk for their insurance carriers and help improve loss ratios. As mentioned above, Notion helps to reduce loss by 20% when systems are kept online.

2. Provides the Data Needed for Innovation in Risk Assessment

As an IoT (Internet of Things) device, Notion gathers a wide range of behavioral information and insights carriers can use to transform current risk assessment metrics, rate modeling, and the development of insurance products. This is especially vital for legacy brands facing increasing competition from market disruptors. For example, when a carrier knows a policyholder has activated a Notion Sensor for a water leak task, they know that person has taken action to lower their risk of a severe water leak claim. In all of the stories in this book, early detection of the water leak would have helped to cause less disruption, limited damage, and lower payouts.

According to research conducted by Notion, policies that include our DIY sensors on average see claims fall by 50% in the first two years. When applied to 50,000 policies, for example, smart home technology can save carriers more than $5.3 million.

Provides the Data Needed for Innovation in Risk Assessment

3. Improved Customer Experience and Brand Loyalty

Brands that develop smart insurance offerings look innovative and prove that they listen to the needs and wants of customers who place a high value on smart home devices and appreciate how they help them manage their homes and lives. These products allow carriers to keep in contact with policyholders and provide valuable tips and educational information that can help people proactively maintain their property and prevent loss. Building a close relationship with policyholders also improves customer lifetime value.


Prevention is better than cure when it comes to water damage and the cost of satisfying claims. Providing easy-to-install, modern IoT sensor devices like Notion gives carriers an operationally simple and relatively low-cost way to reduce the frequency and severity of claims due to water leaks and freezing pipes. Those savings can be passed on to the policyholders through discounts and lower premiums that may lead to an increase in market share.