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13 Nov 2019

Winter 2019: will your home insurance protect you?

Find out how to protect your home this winter

Burst pipes and boiler breakdowns are more likely during the colder months, but the majority of home insurance policies don't cover these emergencies, according to new research.

Defaqto, a financial product rating service, found almost three in four of home building and contents policies don't include cover for home emergenciesas standard.

It's urging households to check their home insurance policies to see whether they're covered, to avoid being left out in the cold this winter.

Here, we look at the number of home insurers that offer home emergency cover and whether it's worth including this cover in your home insurance.

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Is your home insurance falling short?

Defaqto's research found that, of the 390 home contents insurance policies on the market, only 21% include cover for home emergencies.

Similarly for buildings insurance - which protects the structure of your property - only a quarter of the 271 policies on the market offer home emergency cover as standard.

What is home emergency insurance?

Home emergency insurance is designed to protect you against a range of emergencies that could affect your home suddenly and require immediate action.

A home emergency policy could protect you against some or all of the following incidents:

  • 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

In addition to paying for repairs, certain policies may also provide alternative accommodation if the emergency you experience means that your home is uninhabitable for a period of time.

However, this level of cover doesn't come cheap. Which? research found that adding home emergency cover to your home insurance policy could increase your annual premium by around £30.

Where can you get home emergency cover?

Home emergency cover can be bought in a number of ways, aside from adding it to your home insurance policy.

It can be bought as a standalone insurance policy, of which there are currently 104 available on the market.

Certain packaged bank accounts also offer home emergency protection, or you may be able to buy cover from your utility provider.

Before you buy any cover, it's really important to check the terms and conditions to make sure that you get the level of protection you need and don't get caught out if you have to make a claim.

Is it worth taking out boiler breakdown insurance?

While boiler breakdown insurance covers the cost of repairs to a boiler to get it up and running again, it may not necessarily replace it if it's broken.

Only 11 of the 52 boiler breakdown policies on the market offer unlimited cover towards the cost of getting a replacement boiler, according to Defaqto.

The majority of providers - 28 - offer at least £500, which may not be enough to cover the cost of getting yours replaced if it breaks down.

These types of policy can also come with exclusions that could catch you out, such as not covering your boiler because of its age or power output.

Home emergency cover offers a much more comprehensive policy and covers a wider range of incidents that could cause severe damage to your home.

Three ways to protect your home this winter

1. Set your thermostat

It's really important to set your thermostat to the minimum temperature specified in your home insurance policy during cold weather. Damage caused by failing to do so could result in your claim being rejected. The minimum temperature is usually around 12°C but may vary depending on your provider, so it's best to check if you're unsure.

2. Check your pipes

You should try and disconnect and drain any hosepipes, sprinkler systems and water features to help stop the water sitting in them from freezing and causing damage to your property.

3. Get insulating

It's vital to make sure that any exposed pipes in or around your home are well insulated. You'll often find them in your cellar, attic, loft, garage, in kitchen cabinets or on the outside of your property. Making sure these pipes are insulated or are fitted with heating tape will prevent damage from the cold.

4. Locate your stopcock

Knowing the location of your stopcock - which controls the flow of water into your home - will help ensure that you can turn it off quickly in an emergency and prevent a potential flood. The stopcock is a valve that isolates the cold water system in your home and can usually be found in the kitchen under the sink.

5. Have your home insurance details ready

Make sure you have your home insurance provider's contact details ready in case something happens to your property. This will make it easier for you if you have to make a claim for damage or need it to call someone out for repairs. Most insurers have an emergency helpline, so keep this number close to hand.

How to find the best home insurance

If you're looking for your first home insurance policy or it's time to renew, following these tips can help you find the best home insurance deal.

Using a valuation calculator before you start looking for deals can help you get a more accurate idea of how much cover you'll need for your belongings. People often miscalculate the value of their possessions, which can result in them either taking out too much or too little home insurance protection.

Once you have an idea of how much cover you need, price comparison websites can help you easily compare hundreds of deals.

Don't be blindsided by the cheapest prices, though, as those providers may not offer you the right level of protection.

Finally, read the terms and conditions of potential policies carefully and get clarification of anything you're unsure about.

Once you've agreed to the terms of a policy, making a home insurance claim for things that are expressly excluded will be impossible.

To help you find the best insurer, our experts have analysed the standard contents insurance and buildings insurance policies of more than 30 providers and combined this with feedback from thousands of customers to produce impartial home insurance provider reviews.