Spain Explained

High Spanish water bills

Burst water pipes  are a winter-hazard in northern Europe.  But surely we shouldn’t be troubled with the prospect of burst pipes in the heat and humidity of Spain?  Don’t be too sure. This is an example of how water leaks can take the unsuspecting by surprise, even in Spain.

You do assume that if there is a leak you will be able to see some evidence of water.  Not necessarily, you can be losing gallons of the stuff right beneath your feet without even realising if you own a property in Spain.  

Sat outside one hot summer’s evening, one of our clients noticed a  muffled whirring noise that seemed to be coming from the water metre. It had made some unusual noises before so she didn’t think a great deal about it until she noticed the same noise the following evening.

With the help of a neighbour they wedged open the meter box.  The water meter was whizzing round for all it was worth but there was no sign of any water.  “It must be a fault with the meter,” thought our client and put it down on her list of ‘to dos’.

Without liquid evidence there seemed to be no imperative for urgent action. Our client was in no rush to ring the local water company and, when she did, they were in no rush to respond. Several phone calls later a very unenthusiastic gentleman arrived.

He informed her that ‘yes’, the meter was spinning round, that ‘no’ it wasn’t a problem with the meter, in fact it was nothing to do with the water company at all. Somewhere, underground, between the meter and the house there was a leak. And this leak was churning out gallons of water. The news continued to get worse. Where the leak was situated meant that it was the property owner’s responsibility and the bill was likely to come to around 1.000€.

Of course, since filling a few virtual oil tankers with water, our client has discovered that this underground unseen rupture of water pipes is not unusual. In fact, the series of plumbers who came round to   estimate the cost of repair were in agreement – nearly every street and urbanisation is at risk. “It’s the ground movement and the nature of the pipes. Happens all the time in properties of a certain age.”

Hardly a reassuring comment. So what can you do if you don’t want to pour your money down the drain? The offer of insurance against just this eventuality came from the Spanish water company themselves and was unfortunately just a little too late to help. The insurance company were very apologetic but only damage done by the water would be covered. Not damage to her purse. 

A piece of advice if this does happen to you, make sure whoever puts it right for you has got the official stamp to do so. If you get it mended by a recognised plumber then you might be able to negotiate a reduction in the bill and arrange to pay it in instalments. Needless to say, our client didn’t do this and paid the full amount.

In order to help prevent something similar happening to you:

  1. anything different about your water supply – such as low pressure or strange noises – get it checked and as soon as possible 
  2. find out if you are insured and take out insurance if you feel you’re at risk 
  3. be aware that the pipes from the meter to your house are your responsibility and so is any loss that might occur

Hopefully next year it’ll just be the noise of cicadas she’ll be hearing on those warm summer evenings.

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