Home emergency cover

What is home emergency cover?

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Home emergency cover is designed to help you deal with, and pay for, an emergency in your home

Man catching water with bucket from damaged ceiling

Home emergency cover typically covers events such as your boiler breaking down, blocked drains or electrical failure. If you make a claim, an engineer or electrician will visit and their work will be paid for by your 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 what you include in the policy, home emergency cover might 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 the emergency means you can’t stay in your home.

Make sure you know how quickly your insurer will respond to an emergency. Most have a 24-hour helpline – but that doesn’t mean they can guarantee that tradesmen will be available around the clock.

What isn’t covered by home emergency cover?

Every home emergency cover policy has exclusions – things that it won’t cover. There’s likely to be a limit on the cost of the repairs and labour, or the number of call-outs or claims accepted per year. Some other common exclusions include:

  • Claims made during the first 14 (or more) days of taking out the policy
  • Issues resulting from 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

When you search for policies on MoneySupermarket, you’ll be able to see what each policy includes as well as any limits or exclusions.

What counts as an emergency?

Different insurers have separate definitions of an ‘emergency,’ but in general an emergency is something that causes one or more of the following:

  • Makes your home uninhabitable
  • Permanent damage to your home
  • Risks to your health and wellbeing
  • Makes your home unsafe

This is likely to mean the total loss of a service rather than a fault – so losing your heating would count as an emergency, but weak water pressure would not.

Appliances like washing machines are not usually covered, nor are wear and tear or general maintenance issues.

Will home emergency cover include my boiler?

It depends – some policies cover everything, some cover emergencies but not your boiler, while others are specifically ‘boiler-only’ insurance. These solely cover the breakdown of your boiler and nothing else – not even radiators or heating controls.

Where boilers are included, most policies protect you if they break down. Some more expensive policies include an annual boiler service, while some others include a service only in the first year.

Some policies include a financial contribution for a replacement boiler if yours breaks down and can’t be repaired.

Be aware that most insurers insist that your boiler must be serviced every year, and if you can’t prove it’s been serviced, your claim might be rejected.

Can I keep my no-claims bonus if I claim for home emergency cover?

Some insurers will allow you to use your home emergency cover and still keep the no-claims discount on your main home insurance. These can save you a significant amount of money – some providers can offer you a substantial annual discount.

However, insurers and policies differ, so make sure you are aware how using your home emergency cover will affect your insurance.

Do I already have home 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 you shouldn’t duplicate cover, if your current emergency cover is part of a home insurance deal, you might be able to get better protection elsewhere. Standalone policies are usually more comprehensive, covering more eventualities and with higher limits.

What else to watch for

You only need 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.

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.

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