Frozen Heating Pipes: Is the insurer liable for water damage?

BGH gave in its judgment from June 25, 2008 (re IV ZR 233/06) proprietors and landlords some clarity how often they have to check the heating pipes to be entitled to insurance coverage in the case of frost damages. When it is cold, the insured must check their pipes “often enough”, according to the BGH. But when is this the case?


That winter was –14° C (+6.8 ° F) really cold and it came to pass what was going to be, the water pipes in the building busted as they froze. The house was not inhabited at that time. When the owner noticed the damage, a member of his family last checked the house 11 days ago. The insurance refused to reimburse the damages because they were of the opinion the owner had to check the house at twice a week during such extremely low temperatures.

The court held that §11 no. 1d VGB 88 does not demand of a policy holder that they prevent the possibility or exclude the risk of “frost damage (Frostschaden)”. The insured person has only the duty to reduce the insured risk by correctly heating the insured house and regularly checking the functioning of the heating system. How often check-ups are required is a matter for each the individual case: installed system, reliability, breakdown susceptibility, etc. In doubt, an expert will have to be consulted.


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