If you’re unlucky enough to have a home emergency, like your boiler packing up or rats taking up residence uninvited, finding an expert tradesperson fast to avoid disruption to you or your tenants’ lives, and footing the bill might be an expensive headache you’d rather avoid.
If you want your home insurance to cover this type of unexpected event, you could choose home emergency cover as an optional add-on, or as a standalone policy. Make sure you’re clear on what the insurer considers an emergency, and what the standard policy might already cover.
What is Home Emergency Cover?
Home emergency cover is a type of insurance that covers the cost of calling out a tradesman due to a sudden incident, such as your boiler breaking down or your pipes bursting. It can be bought as a standalone policy but is most often an add-on to a standard home insurance policy.
On a valid claim, the insurer will send out an approved engineer or other contractors as soon as possible to temporarily fix the problem and will cover the cost of labour, parts, and materials, up to a maximum cost. Overnight accommodation for you and your family, or your tenants, up to a maximum cost, may also be included if it isn’t safe to stay in your home while it’s fixed.
It’s different from a standard home insurance policy, which helps to cover the cost of repairing the damage caused by the incident, or replacing your belongings, rather than arranging and paying for the call-out to fix the emergency issue itself so it doesn’t get worse.
For example, if a pipe were to break and flood your living room, emergency cover would kick in and temporarily fix your pipes, and offer you an overnight hotel stay if your house is rendered uninhabitable. To replace the ruined sofa and floorboards, and for any extensive plumbing repairs needed after the temporary fix, you would need to claim on your standard home insurance policy.
What does emergency cover include?
When you call your home emergency cover provider to make a claim, they will send out an engineer or electrician and cover the cost of the work they do. However, home emergency cover policies vary a lot in both price and coverage they provide, with standalone insurance often offering more comprehensive protection than the home emergency cover sold with home insurance.
However, most policies will cover the necessary repairs for at least some of the following:
- 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 infections
What does emergency cover not include?
Most home emergency policies limit the cost of the repairs and labour or the number of call-outs, you can claim for each year. Some also charge a call-out fee that you must pay towards any claim.
Other common exclusions include:
- Claims made during the first 14 days (or more) of taking out a policy
- Issues resulting from sludge in the boiler, pipe work, or radiators
- Emergencies arising after a property has been left unoccupied for 30 days or more
- Repairs to boilers not serviced in the past 12 months
- Other issues caused by poor maintenance or wear and tear
If you have a standalone policy, it may offer a higher level of cover than an add-on to your home insurance policy, but it follows that you’ll probably pay more. Check the specifics of each policy before you buy, because the level of cover and the maximum amount paid for a claim varies.
What is considered an emergency?
An emergency is a sudden and unforeseen incident that needs to be fixed as soon as possible because:
- You’ve lost essential services, such as mains drainage, heating, lighting, or water
- Your property has become permanently damaged, dangerous or uninhabitable
- Your health and wellbeing could be at risk
Bear in mind that what you consider an emergency may not meet your insurer’s definition. You may think that a blocked toilet is pretty urgent, but if you have another one that’s fully functioning, the insurer might respectfully suggest you use that. So, losing your heating would count as an emergency, but while a dripping bathroom tap or weak water pressure can be annoying or waste water, they won’t be considered a plumbing emergency.
Also, keep in mind that home emergency cover only covers call-out charges, labour, and any essential repair parts. So, any damage to your property and belongings are not included. This is where your buildings insurance or contents insurance would take over.
Is it worth it?
Although it isn’t compulsory and is up to you to decide on, home emergency cover can offer peace of mind that you’re covered against nasty surprises that can be expensive to fix.
If you’re a homeowner or landlord and want reassurance that emergencies could be covered and dealt with fast, it might be worth considering.
If you’re renting your home, you won’t need to take out home emergency cover. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to deal with emergency issues and take out any insurance they need.
If you’re a landlord with a network of tradespeople on speed dial you may feel emergency cover isn’t necessary. But if you let out a few properties, the reassurance of that immediate assistance might help take the financial pressure off and help keep tenants safe when something goes wrong, especially if you can’t get there quickly.
How can I prevent an emergency?
Prevention is always better than the cure, so lowering the risk of having a home emergency will save you money in the long run.
Keeping your appliances and electronics in good condition and having them regularly serviced will lower the risk of them breaking or there being a fault.
Although it may not be a compulsory service to have, home emergency cover provides peace of mind to landlords and homeowners alike, as well as offering fast action to keep the disruption to you or your tenants’ lives to a minimum.
Smart Cover’s home emergency policy offers 24 hours cover every day of the year. They will send out a trusted qualified professional to tend to the issue until a full fix can be provided for you. They will price match the same cover level at a lower price elsewhere and will match it up to 14 days after your purchase date.