Home emergency cover – is it worth it?

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We’ve all been there, and therefore we’re all painfully familiar with the drill. A water pipe freezes over, it cracks, springs a leak, the kitchen is subsequently flooded in a very short space of time and general panic ensues in the un-prepared household. You call either your landlord (if you’re a tenant), plumber (if you’re the homeowner) and/or both if you’re sensible and thinking on your feet.

Yes. The burst pipes scenario is one which many of us can relate to and empathise with, and not a situation you’d like to have repeated for old time’s sake. Which is why it makes sense to arrange for home emergency cover in with your home contents insurance policy. Of course, damaged pipes aside, the fun (not) and games DOESN’T necessarily stop there, as home emergencies can happen elsewhere in your house and affect your emotional status quo/finances in a variety of different ways.

Like for example your old boiler breaking down unexpectedly. We’ll resist the urge to make a joke out of this last sentence which belongs in the late 1970s, and instead concentrate on just what that actually means. Which is essentially a lack of central heating and a home with a Siberian theme come the depths of winter when ageing boilers typically tend to give up the ghost.

Whilst burst water pipes and knackered boilers tend to be more synonymous with the wintery months, that doesn’t mean summer escapes scott-free in terms of unforeseen home emergencies manifesting themselves without prior warning. Squirrel, bee and wasp infestations are also likely occurrences which can, potentially, be included in a home emergency option, then bolted onto your home contents package. Pesky vermin and unwelcome insect guests can be a right pain in the rear trouser pocket, if you experience either without appropriate insurance cover. And then there’s the spectre of your house being burgled when you’re away; again more of a summer event.

If your boiler goes your optional home emergency cover may not stretch to new equipment

These largely unpredictable mishaps and unforeseen calamities can suddenly appear from nowhere and cause absolute chaos and upheaval from the get-go. The question is – is home emergency cover actually worth it?

In a recent insurance industry-conducted survey it was found that a mere 17% of existing home contents policies comprised of home emergency cover as standard, with 69% offering it to policyholders as an optional extra. In addition to this discovery, it also materialised that should the consumer elect to purchase it as an add-on feature, then expanse of cover and associated premium costs differed wildly. Anywhere between £12 to a staggering £265 as it happened, although the average price came in at around £35 according to the dedicated research. But then it became evident that discrepancies between covers meant that while in some cases 11 different types of cover were available, in others only 2 types were included in this extra-curricular guise. Therein reducing its cost-effectiveness in a flash.

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For the record, standalone home emergency cover can cost up to £330 annually by comparison. To recap as to what policyholders should EXPECT to see included in a home emergency cover document, a decent one would flag up plumbing and drainage, home security (broken doors and windows), central heating failure, vermin infestation, wasp and hornet nest removal and domestic power supply failure to name but a few of the predominant examples.

And reminding ourselves as to just what home emergency cover is – as most of us already understand, it’s a precautionary measure designed to counter the effects of the consequent misfortunes which quickly arise from burst water pipes, boiler breakdown and all the items covered above, courtesy of offering homeowners/policyholders instant access to a 24 hour emergency helpline; manned by staff who will rapidly put you in touch with approved tradespeople to quickly rectify the problem.

The policy as such will pick up the bill for both the call-out and labour charges which apply, as well as material costs accrued by the repair job undertaken and possibly alternative accommodation while the work is being carried out, depending on the complexity and forecast duration of the repair work.

Standalone home emergency insurance will protect your boiler, but will cost you

However there are exceptions which need highlighting before you go any further. It’s not totally beyond the realms of possibility that emergency home cover might exclude equipment and system installations which haven’t been fitted or maintained properly, such as internal water and heating assemblages. As a generally accepted rule of thumb amongst most home insurers, unless a specific utility-providing installation has been inspected and/or serviced within the 12-month period leading up to the cover being arranged, then there’s no obligation to accept a claim on their part.

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Seasonal restrictions can also come into play, and is something you should be extra vigilant for when reading the terms and conditions in any home emergency policy, with Axa’s rigorously adhered to non-cover for heating and boiler repairs during the exclusive months of May to August a point in question.

Meanwhile claims can be capped, with typical ceilings of £500 not out of the ordinary in these instances. Having said that, a figure such as this tends to cover most eventualities, although if you have to replace your boiler then the chances are that £500 will have to be added to out of your own coffers.

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The majority of standalone home emergency cover policies extend to unlimited boiler repairs and an annual inspection, which incidentally ISN’T part and parcel of any home contents insurance provider’s home emergency add-on cover, just so you’re aware; and in the interests of unbiased reporting.

An annual boiler inspection would usually set you back in the region of £70, if this helps you with your maths/decision-making. Staying on the subject of calculations, and the average age of a boiler is said to be 15 years old, while the ball-park figure for replacement works comes in at around £2,300, so it’s well worth bearing your boiler’s age and condition in mind when choosing between policies.

Moving on to the way in which making a claim on a home emergency cover add-on could impinge on your home contents insurance premium the following year, and there are precious few insurers who confirm that the policyholder’s no claims discount/bonus WOULDN’T be affected when it comes to renewal time.

It’s very much up to the individual home contents policyholder to decide

So, is home emergency cover worth it?

Well, bolting-on home emergency cover to an existing home contents policy (providing that this isn’t already taken care of)  certainly represents the most competitively priced of the two main options. More so if pest infestations, blocked drains etc... are an over-riding concern for the individual policyholder, or at the very least one which they wish to counter if and when they arise, as these are tailored specifically towards these well-documented probabilities.

But as we pointed out earlier, be mindful of the maximum/capped pay-outs and any seasonal restrictions mentioned in the all-important T’s and C’s.

If on the other hand you consider – or rather, suspect – that your boiler might cause a few issues somewhere down the line, then dedicated standalone home emergency cover is strongly recommended, particularly if you feel the boiler is nearing the end of its natural lifecycle and envisage future histrionics.

Yet conversely, don’t lose sight of the underlying fact that unless claims exceed the cost of the policy, you'll risk being out of pocket in this case.

Finally, there’s a perfectly justifiable argument for a homeowner plumping to self-insure at the end of the day, and thus avoid splashing out extra on their current home contents policies or alternatively arranging a standalone one. Realistically it could be cheaper to put money away in a decent savings account to facilitate when it comes to annual servicing of a boiler or heating system, and for any other issues which crop up in the meantime.