Exclusions to watch out for with Home Emergency cover

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Worried your boiler’s about to blow up? Scared silly you might lose your house keys and have to replace all your locks?  Frightened your pipes might freeze this winter and leave you without central heating?image_homeemergency

By adding emergency cover to your home insurance you’ll have the reassurance of knowing you can get immediate help dealing with the sort of things than commonly go wrong in a home.

However, home emergency cover isn’t a magic wand which can be waved to fix every problem, with no cost to yourself.

As with other elements of home insurance, there are exclusions and common clauses which you should very much be aware of if you’re not to be left disappointed and, quite possibly, out of pocket.

What it covers you for

Typically, and very much depending on how much you’re willing to pay, the cover will protect you against a number of household emergencies.

These might include boilers breaking down, central heating and hot water systems failing, drains blocking up, pipes bursting and other plumbing problems, as well as electrical failure and security problems caused by loss of keys, burglary, vandalism and storm damage (such as windows being smashed, keys stolen, doors knocked down etc.).

Best ways to buy

Emergency cover can in all likelihood be bought as an ‘add on’ from your existing insurance provider, or you can take it out as a completely separate policy.

Adding it to existing cover is often the most cost-effective way of buying it, but a stand-alone deal could possibly be even cheaper. It very much depends on the insurer and amount of cover you want.

You should expect to pay in the region of £100 to £200 a year for a reasonable level of cover.

Check if you already have cover

Double check if you have emergency cover included as part of your current policy. Some insurers offer it as standard, although this is only usually the case with more expensive policies.

Common exclusions to be aware of

For obvious reasons, emergency cover isn’t a panacea for all the sudden problems that can occur around the home.

Insurers have to be careful they’re not opening themselves up to endless, repeated claims by homeowners with ageing electrical, plumbing and heating systems in properties which they don’t keep in a reasonable state of repair.

Example: Ageing boilers

A good example of how emergency cover catches a good number of people out is how it typically treats boiler issues.

Policies typically offer to replace a boiler if it breaks down and can’t be repaired, or at least provides a percentage sum towards a new one.

So someone with a tired old boiler which is on its last legs might think that they’ll be able to get a new boiler only a few months after taking out emergency cover, assuming it packs up during that time.

For this reason, insurers write exclusions into the terms of policies which usually mean boilers over a certain age (usually anywhere over 7 to 10 years of age) are excluded from the cover.

Other exclusions that are commonly found in relation to boilers are a limit on the number of rooms one services, and whether it’s been serviced annually or not (if it hasn’t, you probably won’t be able to utilise your emergency cover if something goes wrong with it).

Other common exclusions

As can be seen from the above example, you need to be aware of what emergency cover entails, otherwise the type of home you have, and the level of maintenance you carry out, could make taking it out pointless.

Emergency insurance can be extremely useful, and we recommend it as long as those buying it are fully aware of what is and isn’t covered.

Here are the most common exclusions and issues homeowners sometimes only become aware of when it’s too late:

  • Claim limits for individual items – You need to closely check claim limits for items such as boilers, cookers and washing machines to see if you think they’re right for you. Cheaper policies might limit claims for boilers to just a few hundred pounds, for example, whereas others might set a much higher limit of several thousand.
  • Repair claim limits – The maximum sum you can claim for repairs varies considerably between deals.  Anywhere between £250 and £1,000 is fairly common. It’s generally best to choose cover which includes call-out charges as well as parts and labour.
  • Total claim limits – Total claim limits also vary considerably depending on the cover chosen, but up to £4,000 for a standard level of cover isn’t uncommon. Some policies offer unlimited cover.
  • No claims bonus – Some policies have specific clauses saying if you claim on emergency cover it won’t affect your no claims bonus on your wider home insurance policy, but others don’t. Of course, it’s best to choose a policy where your no claims won’t be affected (this is assuming you buy it as an ‘add on’ to your existing home cover).
  • Central heating and boiler maintenance – Many policies insist you have your boiler and central heating systems serviced at least once a year (and can prove it) by a CORGI registered plumbing engineer. A good number of policies include a ‘free’ annual service as part of the deal.
  • Home maintenance – As with general home insurance, the insurer will expect that you take reasonable care of your home to help avoid things going wrong and being claimed for simply because you’ve ‘let the house go’.
  • Non-‘emergency’ times of the year – Something might only be deemed an ‘emergency’ if it happens in the colder months of the year. So if you call your insurer in August because your boilers on the blink, you might not get any help. Exclusions for claims from June through to the end of August are common.
  • Reaction times – If you expect and think you would need help during a home emergency within at least 24 hours, make sure the policy you choose offers this. Timescales for how long insurers will take to find you a qualified tradesperson and provide the assistance you need vary considerably; some people find themselves left days without heating, for example, as their emergency cover might stipulate the insurer has 3 days to find a solution.
  • More than one toilet? Beware! – In the case of a home with more than one toilet, you might find the insurer doesn’t consider it an ‘emergency’ if you have a blocked loo (as you can always use the other).

Policy Expert

We’re an insurance broker dedicated to helping customers find the insurance policy that’s right for them.  To speak to one of our experts call 0203 014 9300 or email ask@policyexpert.co.uk

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Policy Expert.