Home emergency cover

Home emergency cover is a type of insurance which covers a range of emergencies which might affect your home. 

This guide explains how home emergency cover works, what counts as an “emergency”, and home emergency policy exclusions and limitations.

Read on to find out how to get the best home emergency policy at the cheapest price.

What is home emergency cover?

Home emergency insurance policies typically cover you for issues with your boiler and central heating, plumbing, electrics, and household security. Some policies offer cover for issues such as pest infestations or roof damage caused by bad weather.

Home emergency cover is designed to help you:

  • get a qualified and vetted tradesperson to your property as quickly as possible

  • pay for emergency repair work

Most policies include a 24-hour helpline where you can get advice on how to deal with common emergencies. 

You can pay for home emergency cover as part of your home insurance premium, or buy a separate policy.

Home emergency cover can also be known as:

  • home emergency assist

  • home plumbing insurance

  • home repair insurance

  • emergency home insurance

  • home emergency insurance

  • emergency home cover insurance

What is an “emergency”?

Different providers have different definitions of an ‘emergency’ but it is generally something is sudden and unexpected, and that:

  • makes your home unsafe

  • causes your home to be insecure

  • might cause permanent damage to your home

  • risks your health or wellbeing

  • makes your home uninhabitable

  • involves the total loss of an essential service in your home (e.g. heating or electricity)

What’s covered by home emergency cover?

Exactly what is covered by home emergency cover varies from policy to policy, so it’s important to read the small print before you buy a policy.

In general, the more you pay, the more will be covered by your policy.

Some home emergency policies cover many types of emergency. Others cover just 1 or 2 types of issue from the following list:

  • boiler 

  • boiler and heating controls 

  • boiler and central heating 

  • plumbing 

  • electrics 

  • home repair 

  • home security

  • pest infestations

Some providers allow you to build your own policy, adding the types of emergency you’d like covered.

Boiler and central heating

The amount of cover you get for your boiler depends on your policy.

Some policies just cover you if your boiler stops working. Others will include cover for your entire central heating system, including heating controls, pipes and radiators. 

You’ll normally be covered for any issues with your hot water too.

The most comprehensive home emergency insurance policies include a financial contribution to a new boiler if yours can’t be economically repaired. Some also include an annual boiler inspection or service. 

Plumbing and drainage cover

Plumbing and drainage cover should cover you for internal plumbing repairs in your home, emergency drainage repairs, and leaking, blocked or burst pipes.

It should also cover you for blocked sinks and toilets, broken showers, leaking taps, and issues with your stopcock.

The most comprehensive home emergency insurance policies might include repairs to washing machines and dishwasher pipes.

Electrics cover

Electrical cover will normally cover you for power loss due to electrical failure, faulty wiring, fusebox breakdowns, and broken power sockets.

The most comprehensive policies might include cover for electrical appliances, or offer this as an add-on. 

Home security

Home security cover should cover you for anything that makes your home insecure. This might include broken doors, windows or locks. 

The most comprehensive home emergency insurance policies might include cover for new keys or locks if you lock yourself out of your home, or lost or stolen keys.

Roof damage

Some home emergency insurance policies include cover for your roof if it’s damaged due to bad weather or another event. 

It will include urgent repairs necessary to make your home safe and dry, but it won’t include wear and tear or regular maintenance.

Pest infestations

If your home emergency policy includes pest infestations you’ll normally be covered for a professional to remove mice, rat, wasp or other infestations from your home.

Alternative accommodation

If it’s not safe for you to stay in your home due to something covered by the home emergency policy, some insurers will put you and your household up in a hotel while repairs are carried out.

What isn’t covered by home emergency cover?

Every home emergency cover policy has things it won’t cover. These are called exclusions.

Exclusions vary from policy to policy. Typical exclusions might be:

  • repairs to boilers more than 7 or 10-years-old

  • repairs to boilers that haven’t been serviced regularly

  • boiler servicing or maintenance

  • emergency boiler repairs during the summer months

  • scale or sludge build-up in your boiler and central heating system

  • power cuts caused by the National Grid

  • wiring outside of your home

  • shared pipes if you live in a block of flats

  • claims made within the first 14 days of taking out a policy 

  • issues arising after a property has been left unoccupied for 30 days or more

  • wear and tear

  • repairs beyond initial work to make the property safe

  • damage caused during DIY projects

  • issues caused by poor maintenance or negligence

Your home emergency cover policy is also likely to come with limitations. These might limit the:

  • number of claims you can make each year

  • labour costs per claim

  • parts costs per claim

  • total cost per claim

  • the number of callouts per year

  • the total financial value of claims or callouts per year

Do I need home emergency cover?

You only need home emergency insurance if you own your home. 

If you’re a tenant, you don’t need it. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to deal with any emergencies that arise.

If you’re a landlord, you will need specialist landlord home emergency cover rather than a standard policy. 

Even if you’re a homeowner, home emergency cover is not compulsory. It’s up to you if you want to buy it or not. 

Some people choose to self-insure by saving a pot of money ready to spend on any emergency repairs. If you go down this route you will need to find your own tradespeople – local recommendations or Checkatrade can be a good place to start.

Before you buy home emergency cover you should check if you already have it. It might be included or added-on to your home contents or buildings insurance policy. You also might have it as part of a packaged bank account

If you have recently purchased a new build home, some issues normally covered by home emergency cover will be covered by a warranty.

Your boiler and central heating system might be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, depending on when you had it installed. 

If you have recently had electrical or plumbing work done, it might also be covered by a warranty or guarantee.

What’s the difference between home emergency cover and home insurance?

You should be careful not to get home emergency cover confused with home insurance, contents insurance, or buildings insurance.

Contents and buildings insurance cover you for events such as fire, flood, theft and vandalism. 

Buildings insurance protects the structure of your home and fixtures and fittings, while contents insurance covers your possessions.

But contents or buildings insurance won’t cover the cost of your boiler breaking down or a burst pipe.

How to buy home emergency cover

You have 2 options when it comes to buying home emergency cover:

  • a standalone policy 

  • an add-on to your home insurance policy 

In general, a standalone policy will offer more comprehensive cover than an add-on to your home insurance policy. But a standalone policy might be more expensive.

Exactly what is covered varies from policy to policy. You should always read the policy details in full so you know what you are signing up for.

Standalone policies

Standalone home emergency policies usually cost more than home insurance add-ons, but they are generally more comprehensive.

These policies are usually offered by:

  • insurance companies (e.g. Churchill)

  • energy suppliers (e.g. British Gas)

  • home emergency specialists (e.g. Homeserve)

Some providers allow you to build your own policy, adding the types of emergency you’d like covered.

For example, you may choose to just cover your boiler. Alternatively, if you have a new boiler covered by a warranty, you might build a policy that covers plumbing and electrics, but not your boiler. 

Some policies include an annual boiler service. The most comprehensive policies might include a financial contribution to a new boiler if yours cannot be economically repaired.

Standalone policies tend to have higher claim limits than home emergency cover bought as an add-on to home insurance.

You can compare the cost of standalone home emergency policies on price comparison sites. 

Home emergency cover as an add-on to home insurance

Home emergency cover purchased as an add-on to a home contents or buildings policy is usually cheaper than a separate policy – but often offers less cover.

Claim limits, or the number of callouts per year, are likely to be lower.

Any claim on your home emergency cover could affect the premium you pay for home insurance in the future. This isn’t the case if you buy a standalone policy.

On the plus side, buying home emergency cover as an add-on to home insurance will mean you only have one insurance company to deal with if something goes wrong. 

Home emergency cover reviews

You should read home emergency cover reviews on Which? TrustPilot, or Defaqto before taking out cover. It’s also worth doing a Google search to see what customers say about the company and service.

These reviews and ratings will give you a good idea how reliable or useful a particular policy might be, and enable you to carry out a home emergency cover comparison.

Whether you buy a standalone policy or home emergency cover as an add-on to your home insurance, there’s no guarantee of an immediate response in an emergency. 

Typical issues with home emergency cover might include:

  • delays due to bad or extra cold weather

  • a high number of callouts

  • lack of suitably trained and available tradespeople

How to find the best home emergency cover 

Before you buy home emergency cover, check if you have similar cover under:

  • a home insurance policy

  • a packaged bank account

  • a new build home warranty

  • a guarantee or warranty for work you have had done

When you buy home emergency cover you should make sure you won’t be paying for anything twice.

You should compare home emergency cover quotes from different providers. When you do this, you should pay attention to:

  • the premium 

  • any excess payable

  • callout limits

  • claim limits

  • financial limits

  • estimated callout times

  • callout hours

28 October 2020