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Home Emergency Cover: What is it? Do I Need it?

home-emergency-cover

Home emergency cover constantly appears on insurance providers’ websites when you’re looking for home insurance. You’re even asked if you would like to include home emergency cover when you’re getting a quote and comparing prices on comparison tools. But what is home emergency cover? In this guide we have all the answers: from what it is and what it covers to whether you need to it. We’ve even featured a handy home emergency cover comparison section so you can get a good idea about price. Read on now to find out more.


Home emergency cover

Home emergency cover can be your lifesaver when an unexpected emergency happens at home. Got a burst pipe? It’s there to stop extensive water damage. Has your central heating failed you in the middle of the coldest night of the year? Home emergency cover will stop you freezing!

In most cases it isn’t included in a standard home insurance policy (if a provider offers different levels of cover, it might be included in the highest level available), but the majority of providers offer it as an optional extra that you can add on to your policy for an extra cost. It can also be purchased as a separate policy from specialist providers.


What is home emergency cover?

So what is home emergency cover? Home emergency cover is a type of insurance that helps you if something serious goes wrong in your home. It covers the cost of a tradesman (plumber, electrician, etc) call-out, and the labour and materials needed to repair the problem.

As well as financial aid, it also helps you deal with the situation. Your provider will contact and send a registered tradesman to your doorstep in order to fix the problem, saving you from having to ring around.

Most home emergency cover policies operate a 24/7 helpline and promise that a tradesman will be with you within 24 hours of the issue being reported. However, the exact time frame varies from one provider to another: some even guarantee that your emergency will be solved within a couple of hours.

What does home emergency cover include?

In general, home emergency cover classes an emergency as anything that will:

  • Make your home unsafe and/or uninhabitable.
  • Cause permanent damage to your home if it’s not fixed quickly.
  • Be a risk to your health or wellbeing.

These emergencies tend to be split into four categories:

  1. Boiler/heating systems- this includes your central heating system failing, a loss of hot water and your boiler breaking down.

  2. Plumbing problems - this includes burst pipes, blocked drains and a broken toilet or shower.

  3. Electrical - an electrical emergency counts as a failure in the main electrical supply that makes your house uninhabitable. It does not include loss of electricity due to a power cut, unless the power cut leaves serious damage that needs to be dealt with immediately.

  4. Home security - any broken doors or windows, or damaged/broken locks, fall under home security. Some providers will include loss of keys here too.

An extensive home emergency cover policy will also contain protection for roof damage, for example if bad weather makes your roof unsafe, and pest infestations. If pet infestation cover is included, your provider will arrange and pay for a professional exterminator to come to your house and get rid of the pests that have invaded.

If you smell gas in your home and think there might be a gas leak, get out of the house and call the national gas emergency helpline on 0800 111 999 before contacting your provider’s home emergency helpline.

What’s excluded?

a boiler

There are always events and items that are not covered in home insurance policies and home emergency cover is no exception. The exact exclusions of a policy depend on the provider, which is why it’s important to read all of the policy details before purchasing it. A big one here is cover for your boiler - while most do, not all providers include boiler protection in their home emergency cover so don’t take it as a guarantee.

As a general rule, home emergency cover will not cover any emergency if it has resulted from wear and tear. In other words, if you don’t look after your home and something vital breaks, it’s your problem, not your insurer’s. This is why you should always conduct regular maintenance checks on your home and keep up-to-date with your boiler’s annual service - your boiler will not be covered if it’s missed a service check.

It is also common for providers to not cover any home emergency claims made within the first 14 days of taking out the policy (or adding it on to your existing home insurance policy). This is to stop customers making claims for existing problems.

Like a regular home insurance policy, cover will not extend to an unoccupied home (a property that is left empty for 30 days or more).

It also won’t cover any damage that is caused as a result of the emergency. For example, it will cover the cost of fixing your burst pipe, but not the cost of replacing your ruined carpet as a result of the burst pipe. This is your home insurance policy’s job.

Alongside outright exclusions, a lot of home emergency cover enforces limits. These can be:

  • A limit on the number of call-outs per year.
  • A limit on the cost of repairs covered for one call-out.
  • A total annual cost limit for repairs.

Does home emergency cover affect no claims?

The relationship between home emergency cover and your no claims also relies on the provider. Some providers will state in their policy wording that a home emergency claim will not affect the no claims attached to your overall home insurance policy as they are treated as separate; you can claim on your home emergency cover and keep the no claims for your home insurance. Other providers do not include this statement.

If you’re unsure where an insurer lies on this issue, it’s best to contact its customer service team and ask directly.


Landlord home emergency cover

Landlord home emergency cover is exactly the same as standard home emergency cover, but it’s designed to be added on to a buy to let insurance policy instead of a home insurance policy.

If you rent out a flat, you - as the owner of the property - are responsible for any emergencies that occur. Landlord emergency cover will cover the cost of a call-out and the repairs needed to fix the emergency.

An emergency is the same as mentioned above: anything that could cause permanent damage, makes the property unsafe or poses a risk to your tenant’s health.

The same exclusions as regular home emergency cover also apply (e.g. no cover for wear and tear). Additionally, you will not be covered if the damage occurs due to a malicious, intentional action committed by your tenant. For example, if they purposefully break the window by throwing a ball through it, chances are your landlord home emergency cover will not kick in.

Boiler cover not included in your home emergency cover?Check out our guide on landlord boiler cover to compare deals.


Home emergency cover: compare prices

You have two options when it comes to buying home emergency cover. Firstly, you can choose to add it on to your home insurance policy. This is usually the cheaper option and means all your home insurance is with the same provider on the same policy, making life easier when it comes to claims and renewals.

The other option is to take out home emergency cover as a separate policy with a different provider. Going down this avenue will probably mean you have more extensive cover, but that will come at a price as these policies are typically more expensive than a home emergency add-on. Not all providers offer standalone home emergency cover so you will have to search for more specialist insurance companies if you choose this route.

We have conducted a price comparison of both options: home emergency cover as an add-on and as a standalone policy. As you will see, the standalone options are more expensive in most cases, but you will also notice that prices in both options vary quite extensively. Quite simply, it all depends on the provider, which is why it’s really useful to shop around and compare policies.

Price comparison of standalone home emergency cover
Provider Annual Cost
Home Emergency Assist £39
Smart Cover Insurance £39
Frank Pickles Insurance £55
Nova Direct £55
Dynamo Home Care £58.99
Home Emergency Assist £65
Home Rescue.co £68
Plus Heat £99
Smart Cover Insurance £99

 

Price Comparison of home emergency cover as an add-on
Provider Annual Cost of add-on
AA £27.99
Coop £0.12
Halifax £39.6
Lloyds £39.6
LV £50
John Lewis £30.35
Churchill £58.24
Endsleigh £42.99
Esure Free for first year
Sheila’s Wheels Free for first year

 

*Comparisons based on a three bedroom house in London.

Don’t base your decision on price alone. It’s also important to check what is covered, what’s excluded, claim limits and if there is any excess applied. These can make a cheap policy less appealing and a more expensive one a better option.


Do I need home emergency cover?

Lots of people ask whether they need home emergency cover and the simple answer is no, it is not an essential type of home insurance. Having said that, it can give you a lot of peace of mind and get you out of a tricky situation pretty quickly if something does go wrong in your home.

a boy looking confused

It will make your home insurance policy more expensive, but can save you money in the case of an emergency. This is where the claim limit plays a huge role. If the maximum the provider will pay per call-out is low - around £100, for example - it’s not going to cover the cost of any major incident and might not be worth it. If the claim limit is higher - £500 or over - it will cover a greater portion of repairs and could be a good investment. This is an important factor to weigh up when deciding what is best for you.

Do tenants need home emergency cover?

Tenants do not need home emergency cover. Home emergency cover is attached to the physical structure and permanent fixtures of a property, which means any damage that it covers is the responsibility of the landlord. Only homeowners need to be concerned with home emergency cover.


Top things to look out for when buying emergency home cover

To help make your search for home emergency cover a little bit easier, keep an eye out for these six factors:

  1. Benefits and exclusions - make sure what you want covered is included and check if certain circumstances would make a claim invalid. For example, not all policies include boiler cover and some will not cover your boiler if it is older than a set age, e.g. ten years.

  2. Limits - check to see what the price limit per call-out is (only very expensive options will have unlimited cover here). Also check for limits on the number of call-outs you can make during the year and if there is an annual price limit on claims.

  3. Excess - some home emergency cover charges excess. A high excess can mean you pay for a lot of the repairs yourself on minor claims.

  4. What’s an emergency? - while the general rules of thumb discussed above apply in most situations, providers will have their own definitions of what constitutes an emergency. For instance, a blocked/broken toilet might not be classed as an emergency if you have another working toilet in your house.

  5. Call-out costs - make sure the cost of calling out a tradesman at any time of the day or night is covered. Some providers might charge you if you need assistance outside of regular working hours.

  6. Ensure you are buying an insurance policy and not a service contract - a service contract is simply an agreement between you and the service provider/manufacturer that says it will fix repairs. These are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority meaning you will have limited protection if a company ceases trading or fails to live up to its end of the contract. If you’re purchasing home emergency cover through an insurance provider, it will be an insurance policy.

Data and information correct as of October 2019.

All material on this page and the selectra.co.uk website is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of financial advice. Selectra.co.uk is not responsible for any consequences that might arise from your use of the information provided.

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