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Last updated: 29 October 2021
As the name implies, home emergency cover can be taken out to help you in the event of an emergency in your home. Home emergency cover typically covers you in the event of an electrical failure, blocked drain, or your boiler breaking down. Once the problem has been taken care of by an engineer or an electrician, your insurer will cover the costs.
This guide will run you through the things you need to know before you take out a home emergency cover policy.
What exactly does a home emergency insurance policy cover?
Home emergency cover varies slightly from a standard home insurance policy, which usually covers damage to your belongings or home. Home emergency policies can be taken out to cover a wide range of eventualities, with the amount you pay varying in relation to the amount of cover you require.
The following events can be covered by a home emergency cover policy:
- Your boiler breaking down
- A failure with your central heating
- A loss of hot water
- Burst pipes and blocked drains
- Any other issues with plumbing
- Electrical failures
- Damage to your roof caused by extreme weather
- Lost keys and other security issues (broken doors/windows)
- Pest infestations
Some policies will provide cover for the cost of alternative accommodation if your home is uninhabitable for a period of time, on top of paying out for the damage.
Your individual policy will specify how quickly the insurer will respond to any given situation. Some insurers have a helpline that is accessible 24 hours a day - but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a technician can be sent out at any time of day.
As with all insurance policies, you should also take into account the excess payable in the event that you need to make a claim, and make sure this is affordable (or else there’s no point having a policy at all).
Does my home insurance policy include emergency cover?
Standard home insurance policies can sometimes include cover for home emergency situations. You’ll need to check your home insurance policy to see if you’re covered and weigh up whether you’d want to lose a no claims bonus you’ve built up. Many insurers offer home emergency cover as an add-on, whilst bank accounts may offer such cover as a perk.
You’ll need to check if the home emergency cover as part of another product is adequate for your needs before taking out a separate home emergency cover policy. Bear in mind, standalone policies do tend to cover more eventualities and have higher limits with less exclusions (see below), compared to policies that are included as add-ons or perks.
Do I need home emergency cover if I rent my home?
No. You’ll only need such cover if you are the owner of your home, as otherwise it is the responsibility of your landlord if an emergency should arise. Landlord’s take out specialised policies (landlord insurance) that will cover home emergency situations.
What exactly is considered to be an emergency?
Each individual insurer, and policy, will set out in the small print exactly under which circumstances they will consider an eventuality to be an ‘emergency’. This is why it’s essential that you read the policy wording carefully before you take on an insurance policy, so you know exactly what you are covered for.
Generally speaking, a complete loss of a given service is what is considered to be an ‘emergency’. So if you completely lose your hot water or heating, rather than having low water pressure or having issues controlling the thermostat. Issues with domestic appliances aren’t typically covered, nor is wear and tear or general maintenance around the home.
Common home emergencies are events or occurrences that leave your home in state that is uninhabitable or unsafe, or with permanent damage. Also, any occurrence that is the cause of a risk to your wellbeing or health is also generally considered to be an emergency.
Is my boiler covered by my home emergency cover?
This really depends on your individual policy. Many policies specifically exclude boiler issues from their list of emergency scenarios, with insurers offering separate ‘boiler-only’ insurance policies. Boiler-only policies literally only cover the breakdown of your boiler, and won’t even cover heating controls or radiators.
Covering your boiler isn’t always necessary as new boilers usually come with some kind of warranty up to around seven years. So if your boiler is still under warranty you won’t need to get separate boiler-only insurance at all.
On the other hand, the older your boiler is, the harder it is to find an insurance policy to get it covered. Boilers over 15 years old are almost impossible to find policies for. Pricier insurance policies will actually include an annual boiler service as part of their policy, whilst some policies only include this service for the first year.
Under some policies, a financial contribution will need to be made to replace your boiler (if it can’t be repaired), and most insurers will insist that your boiler be serviced each year or you’ll risk invalidating your boiler cover if you fail to provide evidence of doing so.
When it comes to getting your boiler covered, you really do need to shop around, read the small print, and make sure you’re on top of your specific needs when it comes to getting it covered.
What won’t be covered by my home emergency cover policy?
As with all insurance policies there are exclusions and limits with regards to what the insurer will pay out for, even when your policy states that a given emergency situation is ‘covered’ as part of your policy.
Typical exclusions include:
- Claims made in the first 14 days (or possibly more) of taking out the insurance policy
- Problems caused by sludge in radiators, pipework, or the boiler
- Issues caused after a property has been left uninhabited for 30 (or more) days
- Problems with boilers that haven’t been serviced in the last year
- Issues caused by wear and tear, or poor maintenance
As for limits, these can include:
- The total costs of repairs during the year
- The total number of call-outs in the year
- The total cost of repair per call-out
- The total value of claims during the year (including the call-out charge, labour, parts, and VAT)
Always be sure to read the wording of your policy so you know what is excluded and what your limits are.