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Check your home insurance: Many don’t cover emergencies

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

Just a fifth of home contents insurance policies include cover for emergencies such as a boiler breakdown, research reveals.

As Brits settle into the colder winter months, they’re reminded to check whether they have protection for emergencies, such as for their boiler and heating system.

Many could be left out in the cold as a number of policies exclude boiler breakdown and other home emergencies.

Of the 403 home contents insurance policies available on the market, only a fifth (21%) include cover for home emergencies as standard.

And the analysis by financial information business Defaqto revealed that of the 375 buildings insurance policies available today, just a quarter (25%) include home emergency cover as standard.

Further, around half of all contents and buildings insurance policies currently on the market offer ‘home emergency’ cover as an optional add-on – 176 out of 390 (45%) of contents insurance policies, and 183 out of 371 (49%) of buildings insurance policies.

Boiler breakdown vs home emergency insurance

Alternatively, households can buy ‘standalone’ home emergency insurance. But it shouldn’t be confused with boiler breakdown insurance which is specifically designed to protect a boiler against the cost of future breakdown.

These products cover the cost of boiler repairs to get it up and running but not necessarily replace it if it is broken. A large proportion include an annual boiler service.

Defaqto found that with a new boiler costing anywhere upwards of £1,000, 36% of policies available (18 out of 50) will cover costs of at least £750 or more towards a replacement boiler, while a further 13 policies (26%) offer unlimited cover towards replacement. However, there will be exclusions based on the age and power output of the boiler.

By comparison, home emergency insurance covers a range of emergencies to make homes safe or reinstate essential services. Defaqto said it offers more comprehensive cover than boiler breakdown insurance particularly in winter months when homes are at risk of central heating failure, burst pipes, electrical failure and roof damage caused by extreme weather.

Some policies (197 out of 336) will also provide alternative accommodation for an unlimited number of nights while others may provide a maximum amount towards alternative accommodation.

Home emergency insurance is sometimes added on to home contents and buildings insurance and packaged bank accounts or offered through utility providers, so it is worth checking whether there is already cover in place and checking for any exclusions, before buying a new policy. It can be bought as a standalone product and there are currently 90 such policies available in the marketplace.

‘Heating and hot water more important than ever’

Brian Brown, consumer finance expert at Defaqto, said: “As we are spending much more time at home this winter, having heating and hot water is more important than ever. In the past, you could pop round to a neighbour’s for a shower or go to a café to keep warm during the day if your boiler broke down, but these options don’t exist for most people now.

“Boilers are expensive and the cost of having to replace one can be a nasty shock. If you don’t have the funds to pay for this, then a boiler breakdown policy that helps towards boiler replacement could be a good option for you. Homeowners looking for a more comprehensive cover may find a home emergency policy provides greater comfort. However, the extent of cover can be limited. So it’s always worth checking the market to find a policy that’s right for your circumstances.”