What is home emergency cover?
Home emergency cover typically covers events such as your boiler breaking down, blocked drains or electrical failure. An engineer or electrician will visit and their work will be paid for by the insurer. It’s different from a standard home insurance policy which only covers damage to your home and belongings.
What does home emergency insurance cover?
Home emergency policies vary considerably depending on how much you pay and the level of cover provided. Depending on the policy, home emergency cover will protect you against some, or all, of the following events:
- Boiler breakdown
- Central heating failure
- Loss of hot water
- Plumbing problems
- Burst pipes
- Blocked drains
- Electrical failure
- Roof damage caused by extreme weather
- Security issues such as broken doors and windows
- Lost keys
- Pest infestations
As well as paying for repairs, some policies will also provide for alternative accommodation if an emergency means your home is uninhabitable for a period of time.
Each policy also sets out how quickly the insurer will respond to an emergency. Most have a 24-hour helpline but this doesn’t necessarily mean tradesmen will attend your home around the clock.
You should also check whether there is an excess on the policy – this is the amount you would have to pay towards any claim.
What counts as an emergency?
It’s important to read the small print before buying a home emergency policy and understand what counts as an ‘emergency’. It is likely to mean the total loss of a service such as central heating or hot water, rather than issues with heating controls or weak water pressure.
Wear and tear and general maintenance will not be covered, nor will domestic appliances such as washing machines.
A home emergency is normally something that does one or more of the following:
- Makes your home uninhabitable
- Will cause permanent damage to your home
- Causes a risk to your health and wellbeing
- Makes your home unsafe
Will home emergency cover include my boiler?
It depends – some policies will cover a range of emergency scenarios but not your boiler, while others are specifically ‘boiler-only’ insurance. The latter solely cover the breakdown of your boiler but nothing else – not even radiators or heating controls.
New boilers normally come with a warranty of up to seven years so boiler-only cover might be suitable if yours is still under warranty.
The older your boiler is, the harder it will be to find a policy to cover it. If it’s more than 15-years-old you’re unlikely to find insurance at all.
Where boilers are included, most policies cover you if they breakdown. A small number of more expensive policies include an annual boiler service while some others include a service only in the first year.
Some policies will include a financial contribution to a replacement boiler if yours breaks down and can’t be repaired.
It’s vital to be aware though that most insurers stipulate that the boiler must be serviced each year, otherwise claims may be rejected if you don’t have evidence of this.
What isn’t covered?
Even when certain emergency situations are listed as being included, there may be limits and exclusions regarding what the insurer will pay for.
There might be limits on:
- The cost of repairs per call-out.
- The total cost of repairs per year.
- The number of call-outs per year.
- The total value of claims per year. A claim includes a call-out, parts, labour and VAT.
Common exclusions on home emergency policies include:
- Claims arising in the first 14 (or more) days of taking out the policy.
- Issues due to sludge in the boiler, pipework or radiators.
- Emergencies arising after a property has been left unoccupied for 30 days or more.
- Repairs to boilers not serviced in the past 12 months.
- Other issues caused by poor maintenance or wear and tear.
Check if you already have emergency cover
Home emergency cover is sometimes included as standard on a home insurance policy while some insurers offer it as an add-on. It’s also occasionally included as a perk on a packaged bank account.
Although it’s important not to duplicate cover, check if home emergency cover which is part of another product is adequate. Standalone policies are usually more comprehensive, covering more eventualities and with higher limits.
What else to watch for
You only need to consider home emergency cover if you own your home. If you rent, your landlord is responsible for dealing with emergencies. Landlords looking for cover for rented homes should buy specialised landlord insurance rather than a standard home emergency policy.
If you buy a home emergency policy, be aware some insurers will offer a cheap price for the first year – but increase the price when it’s due for renewal.
Finally, make sure you understand whether you are buying a ‘service contract’ or an insurance policy. A service contract is an agreement between you and the service provider or manufacturer that it will cover the cost of repairs if something goes wrong.
Unlike insurance policies, service contracts are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority so consumers will have limited protection if the company fails to fulfil its obligations or ceases trading. For that reason, a home emergency insurance policy is generally a safer option – though always double check any insurer you buy from is correctly regulated.