How many of us really know the current state of our geyser? An unexpected geyser burst could take your finances down with it - unless you are prepared.

As winter tightens its grip, there couldn’t be a worse time to risk having no hot water, let alone ignore the potential outlay of funds that could be needed to fix a broken geyser. As hidden as your geyser may be in your roof, or tucked away in a cupboard, certain terms and conditions should not be far from sight, to stay on the right side of your short-term insurance. But without adequate cover, you could be at serious risk.

* Be clear about your cover. Your short-term insurance policy is there to help, but only if you manage it correctly. Don’t assume that having cover is enough. You must work within the rules for maintaining your geyser to keep it and adequately insured.

* Don’t bank on bursts. Some temperature problems and geyser bursts are the only issues likely to be covered by your insurer, but if your geyser is still under warranty, the geyser manufacturer will become involved. There can be delays, so working with an insurer who has a 24-hour assist service is your best option. If a claim is repudiated, the cost of replacing a geyser yourself could be dire.

* Don’t rely on your mortgage bond insurance. You might think if you’re paying off your property, everything - including your geyser - will be automatically covered by the built-in insurance that comes with having a bonded asset. This may be true for some, but it might factor in only how much you still owe on the property and can result in even more steps needed by you to progress an insurance claim. This is among the reasons working with an insurance adviser can help, as they will follow up as needed on your behalf. Advisers can also play an important role in directing clients to insurer-approved service providers. This is particularly useful, as it can be difficult to get a recommendation for a trusted tradesman.

* Identify potential problems. While a geyser bursting isn’t necessarily as violent or destructive as it sounds, and you can often continue using it after a burst, it is better to avoid this and replace yours asap, particularly to stay covered by insurance. If you notice that more than a pipe is dripping from your geyser outlet (as the overflow pipe is likely to drip normally), you need to notify your adviser or insurer immediately. This could be a sign that a burst has taken place, but only a qualified plumber - registered with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board - will be able to assist you, particularly to stay covered by insurance.

* Professional plumbing is the only option. A number of SANS codes apply, and a certificate of compliance is required on the installation of a geyser. Only a qualified plumber, who will issue the certificate to you, will know what must be done.

If you’re in an older property, your geyser’s drip tray might not be up to scratch, so get a qualified plumber out to check it. Also note issues in water temperature, colour or pressure when using hot-water outlets around your property, to stay ahead of any maintenance issues.

* Go beyond the geyser. Water leaks can have serious consequences. Imagine if a ceiling above a cupboard becomes damaged, for example. Risks such as these make it necessary to include the full picture in your policy. Account for what it would cost to replace the structure itself to everything inside your property. That replacement cost - in today’s value - needs to be considered. Your building sum insured should also consider costs of demolition, alternative housing and delays in rebuilding. Being prepared is important and an adviser can guide you through the entire process.

* Keep the heat on. Avoid unnecessary regret and deal with any issues before they happen. Start by checking your geyser outlet this weekend and contacting your adviser.

* Bertus Visser is the chief executive of distribution at PSG Insure.

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