Home insurance Home emergency insurance
Home emergency insurance covers you for an emergency in the home, such as a burst pipe, broken-down boiler, blocked drains or failure of your home electrics. It normally provides rapid response and covers repairs up to a maximum cost. Emergency insurance may be provided as part of existing home insurance cover, or supplied as a paid-for extra by your household insurer. Policies are also supplied as a stand alone product by firms such as British Gas, Homeserve, the AA and Direct Line.
Exclusions and limits
Exclusions are a key consideration for anyone taking out a home emergency policy. Most cover essential services, such as water, drainage, heating and electricity. Some are more comprehensive and also take in pest infestation by rats or wasps, roof damage caused by storms or broken locks and windows that could constitute a threat to home security. A few providers cover lost keys and some pay for the cost of temporary accommodation if a household emergency makes your home uninhabitable.
It’s imperative that you pay close attention to the small print on any policy you take out, otherwise, you may find that your cover doesn’t count when you need it most. A significant point to check is if boiler breakdown is covered at any time of year, or if this part of the policy is invalid from May to August- as only a winter breakdown is deemed an emergency. It's also worth looking at the maximum cost of any repair. Some policies only go to £150 or £300, while others cover repairs costing over £1,000. The age and condition of your boiler is also significant- some insurers don't cover those over 8 years old, and most draw the line at those over 15 years old. Most policies will only cover boilers that have been professionally serviced each year. Some stand-alone providers offer this as an extra service, for an additional fee.
Are you already covered for home emergency insurance?
Some home insurers, such as The AA, Hiscox, John Lewis, Legal & General, Prudential and Tesco (Finest), offer home emergency cover as part of their standard policy. If this is adequate for your needs, you do not need to do any more. It is important to check the level of cover carefully, however. Although these insurers provide emergency cover for burst pipes, blocked drains, boiler failure in the winter and household electrics, many have low cover limits, from Legal & General’s £150 to Prudential’s £250. Hiscox and Tesco go up to £500 and John Lewis to £1,500. Some insurers don’t provide an emergency response to storm damage to the roof or pest infestation, but if your main policy is with these firms, you probably don’t need to take out extra cover – apart from a standalone boiler service contract. Alternatively, you can pay independently for this as a one-off cost each year.
Home emergency insurance as an optional extra
If your insurer doesn’t provide emergency cover as standard, it may offer it as an optional add-on. Most providers sell emergency insurance this way.
The cover limit of add-on insurance tends to vary from £250 to £1,000. The annual additional premiums can range from between £30 and £100, depending on which of the major insurance companies you opt for.
Emergency cover is, of course, just one aspect of your home insurance, and an insurer that is particularly competitive in this area may not offer the best overall deal. Comparing policies is the only way to ensure you have the right cover, paying particular attention to exclusion clauses and caveats, found in a specimen policy document on most providers’ websites.
Specialist providers of home emergency insurance
The main suppliers of home emergency cover are not mainstream insurers but specialist providers such as Homeserve, Domestic & General and The AA. British Gas is also a major force.
These providers can expensive. Annual premiums for their most comprehensive policies range from £125 to £350. The maximum level of cover ranges from £300 to £2,000. It is possible to reduce the cost by opting for more restricted cover or accepting an initial excess. Whether these companies provide better service than general insurers is debatable, although British Gas has its own dedicated workforce.
Do you need home emergency insurance?
If boiler failure or blocked drains are a particular concern, you may feel reassured by having a home emergency policy. However, in many cases it could be cheaper to ‘self-insure’ by putting
money aside to pay for an independent engineer or plumber when necessary. The sums involved will vary, depending on where you live, the age of your boiler and what goes wrong. Insurance should reduce the stress of a household emergency, but do check the small print carefully before you buy. Look particularly closely at what items are covered, the maximum cost of each repair and any seasonal restrictions.