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Home emergency cover: What counts as a home emergency?

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Home emergency cover helps cover costs for urgent repairs to your main utilities - including water, gas and electricity.

You can get it as a stand alone policy or as an add-on to your buildings and contents policy.

Sometimes this cover is already included in a standard home insurance policy, but check for this. If you're a landlord, you can also get landlord home emergency cover as an add-on to your landlord insurance.

Here’s what you need to know about home emergency cover.

Woman standing in living room with a bucket, catching water from a burst pipe and on the phone to an emergency plumber

Home emergency cover helps cover the cost of sudden issues in the house, such as a burst pipe or a boiler that's stopped working. Generally, a home emergency is anything that:

  • Is bad for your health
  • Risks damaging your home
  • Compromises your home's security

A home emergency policy covers the cost of needing to call out a tradesperson to fix the issue itself, but not any damage the issue causes.

If anything else is damaged as a result, you have 2 options:

Every policy varies, but you usually get cover for the following:

Boiler and heating

Home emergency cover covers the cost of calling out a tradesperson if your boiler breaks down aand leaves you with no heating or hot water.

There might be some T&Cs around this for your cover to be valid, such as:

  • The boiler needs to be outside its manufacturer warranty
  • You should have the boiler serviced regularly
  • The boiler should be under a certain age – usually less than 7 to 10 years

Some policies offer up to £250 for a new boiler if it’s not fixable.

Plumbing and drainage

This covers you for burst pipes and blocked drains, sinks and toilets. It also covers underground external drainage, but only the pipes you’re legally responsible for.

There are quite a few exclusions, though.

It doesn't cover drainage issues that are outside your property.

Home emergency policies don’t include the cost of repairs to the underground water supply. Your water company is usually responsible for this.

When it comes to plumbing, your policy doesn't cover replacement:

  • Pumps
  • Water tanks
  • Radiators
  • Cylinders
  • Water softeners
  • Waste disposal units
  • Parts of your central heating system

Your policy might not cover damage if it’s been more than 60 days since you’ve slept at your home.

Home emergency cover doesn't tend to cover trace and access, where someone locates the source of a leak. Check your home insurance policy to see if it’s included.

Roof damage

If your roof suffers sudden storm damage, home emergency cover helps with quick repairs to the roof to keep your home dry.

The word ‘sudden’ is important here – general wear and tear isn't usually covered. You’ll also have to prove that your roof is well maintained.

Electrical failures

If your home’s fuse box blows, or an electric failure leaves you without power, you could claim on your home emergency cover to fix it.

This only applies to your home. So, if a storm knocks out the grid, your policy doesn't normally cover this.

It's also unlikely to cover:

  • Temporary electrical wiring
  • Wiring that’s outside your home
  • The electrical supply to your outbuildings and garages

Broken windows, doors and locks

If your home is suddenly vulnerable because of a smashed window or broken door lock, your home emergency policy can help.

But if your keys are lost or stolen, your insurer may not pay to replace your locks. You might have cover for this under your general home insurance policy though.

Lost keys

Depending on the policy, you might also be offered replacements for a lost or stolen house key. But you’d have to weigh up whether it was worth claiming over calling a locksmith.

Pest infestations

Your policy could help remove infestations – the usual suspects are:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Wasp nests

Some home emergency cover providers have different definitions as to what a ‘pest’ is. So, removing a beehive might not be covered, for example.

Also, if you’ve claimed for pest infestations before and you haven’t followed any of the recommendations on controlling the pests, you might not be covered.

Alternative accommodation

Some policies also include alternative accommodation cover. This is useful if the emergency has left your home temporarily uninhabitable.

Others pay towards the cost of a night’s accommodation in a hotel, and some might even cover the cost of a kennel or cattery to house your pet for a night.

Home emergency cover generally doesn't include:

  • Wear and tear
  • General maintenance
  • Damp and rot
  • Broken boilers that are old – usually 7 or more years, but check with the provider
  • Infestations of protected species - like bats
  • Minor issues such as a dripping tap or a single faulty electrical socket
  • Any damage caused by the original issue
  • Problems in unoccupied properties - you usually aren't covered if you’ve not stayed at your home for more than 60 days.

Sometimes it is. Home insurance policies can include home emergency cover as standard. Others might offer it as an add-on or as a standalone policy.

Your standard policy should cover damage caused by the emergency. This includes things like a burst water pipe damaging your carpet. But it might not cover the cost of repairing what’s caused the emergency. That’s when your home emergency policy comes in.

You might get more coverage, and you might be able to make more claims on a standalone or add-on home emergency policy.

Whichever option you choose, you should check the value and what exactly is covered on the policy.

While it’s not essential, home emergency cover is worth considering if you're not prepared for the unexpected costs of a claim.

Repair costs could end up being substantial, so it’s worth weighing up your options to see what suits your circumstances.

What our home & lifestyle insurance expert says

"We never know what’s going to happen and home emergency cover can provide some protection from the unexpected.

“You can buy home emergency insurance as an add-on, a standalone policy or sometimes it’s included as standard on a home insurance policy. The level of cover varies depending on this. Make sure you check your policy wording or speak to your insurer before you buy so you know exactly what type of emergencies you’re covered for.”

When you compare home insurance with us, you'll be able to tick the 'home emergency cover' box before viewing all the prices. Alternatively, after viewing prices, you can select 'edit quote' and you can tick the ‘home emergency cover‘ box there.

We then quickly recalculate your quote with the added cost of home emergency cover.

You should also be able to see which home insurance companies include it as standard and which have it as an extra – and how much that costs.

This depends on whether you’ve bought the policy as an add on, separately or if it’s included in your home insurance.

If you’ve bought a standalone home emergency policy then a claim on it is unlikely to affect your no-claims discount. You might be able to claim as many times as you need to without penalty. It’s worth checking the T&Cs in case there’s a limit on how many callouts you’re allowed.

The same is true if it’s an add-on. Claiming might not affect your discount, but it’s worth checking your policy document, or speaking to your insurer.

If home emergency cover is included in your policy, a claim will probably affect your no-claims discount.

You may not be able to use your discount on a standalone emergency cover policy. This is because some standalone emergency cover policies don’t have a no-claims discount feature.

It depends on the insurer's policy, but most home emergency cover policies limit the cost of repairs and labour. They can also limit the number of callouts you can claim for each year.

Standard home insurance policies may give you a claim limit, too. For example, a maximum of £2,500 a year, with no more than 3 claims a year.

But more comprehensive policies can give you a bigger claim amount. Their cover may also include:

  • Boilers
  • Central heating
  • Electrics
  • Unlimited call-outs in a year

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