What is Home Emergency Cover? (And Who Needs It)

Protect against the unexpected

Have you been wondering about getting home emergency cover? Not sure what counts as an emergency or if the extra cost is worth it?

Here, we look at everything you need to know about home emergency cover. And we’ll also share some tips to cut the risk of needing to make a claim.

What is home emergency cover?

Home emergency cover is there for those disasters that come completely out of the blue. That could be anything from a burst water pipe to an invasion of mice. 

If you have home emergency cover, your insurance company will arrange for someone to fix the problem. And your insurance will cover (or at least, contribute towards) the bill. It may also cover temporary accommodation costs if it’s impossible to stay in your home.

It’s designed to deal with the immediate issue, but it won’t cover the costs of putting things back the way they were. So, if your burst pipe has wrecked your carpet, for example, the price of a replacement wouldn’t be included. You’d need to claim for that on your main home insurance.

What counts as an emergency?

Insurers look at the impact of the incident to decide whether it’s really an emergency. Most policies define an emergency as a problem that has to be fixed urgently because:

  • it’s putting your health at risk
  • it could permanently damage your home, or
  • it’s making your home unsafe or compromising its security. 

The kinds of things that usually fall into those categories are:

  • Plumbing or drainage issues. Remember, though, that to count as an emergency, they must be things that need to be fixed urgently. So while a burst pipe or blocked drain will probably count, a leaking tap won’t. And your policy won’t usually cover drainage issues outside your property, or tracing the source of a leak.
  • Boiler or central heating breakdown. Some policies will have exclusions, though. They may cover the boiler but not the central heating system. And you may only be covered for winter breakdowns.
  • Electrical failure. If your fuse box blows, you should be covered. But you won’t be able to claim for a power outage if it’s the National Grid that’s to blame.
  • Roof damage. If your roof is damaged in a storm, your home emergency insurance should have you covered (literally!). But your policy won’t cover issues caused by general wear and tear or poor maintenance.
  • Pest infestations. Rats, mice and wasp invasions are usually covered. But other critters may not be.
  • Broken locks, doors or windows. Some policies also cover lost or stolen house keys.

Does home emergency cover roof leaks?

It usually depends on what’s caused the leak. For example, if it was the result of sudden damage from high winds, you’re likely to be covered. But if the damage results from a longstanding problem you haven’t fixed, you almost certainly won’t be.

And some policies will only pay out if the leak has caused damage inside your home.

Does home emergency cover include boiler repairs?

Most home emergency policies will cover boiler repairs. But they may only pay out if certain conditions are met. 

They might, for example, require your boiler to be under a certain age or outside the period covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. And they might ask for evidence that it’s been regularly serviced.

What isn’t covered by home emergency cover?

Home emergency cover is all about dealing with the incident that’s causing an immediate problem. It won’t cover:

  • Problems caused by general wear and tear or poor maintenance
  • Damp and rot
  • Minor problems — like a dripping tap or a single faulty electrical socket
  • Older boilers, usually 7 years or older, or those that haven’t been regularly serviced or are still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty
  • Infestations of protected species — if you have bats in your belfry, you’ll need to leave them in peace!
  • Damage caused by hard water deposits or sludge
  • Damage to unoccupied properties — most policies exclude properties that haven’t been occupied for either 30 or 60 days
  • Costs above the limit — most policies will cap costs per claim, and there may also be a cap on the number of claims you can make in a year
  • Further repairs after the emergency fix 
  • Damage resulting from the emergency 

Some policies will have other exclusions, too, like claims made within 14 days of the policy start date. Check what’s in and out carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Why do you need home emergency cover?

Asking yourself, “Do I need home emergency cover?” Well, there’s no law that says you have to have it. But for some people, it can offer peace of mind that there’s someone to help when disaster strikes. 

Most policies will offer the following:

  • A 24-hour helpline to call in an emergency
  • Approved tradespeople who can come and fix the problem
  • Cover up to a certain amount for costs (A-Plan’s home emergency cover offers up to £1,000 for parts and labour)

Is home emergency cover worth adding?

Is home energy cover worth it? To answer that question, it can help to think about the circumstances in which you’d use it.

Do you already have good contacts with electricians, plumbers, roofers and so on? Could you find someone quickly in an emergency? If not, you might value the simplicity of a single phone call to your insurer, who’ll then take care of the rest.

The cost will be an important consideration too. No one knows if, or when, an emergency will strike. You might find you pay for cover and never need to make a claim.

But insurance premiums are fixed costs that you can plan for. If you’d struggle if faced with unexpected expenses, it could make sense to invest in cover.

What is home emergency cover on home insurance?

Some homes and contents policies include home emergency cover as standard. And some allow you to add it in as an optional extra.

Cover that’s included as standard may have a lower limit for claims and exclude certain things that could be included in a standalone policy.

If your insurer offers it as an optional extra, it could be worth shopping around. You may be able to get better cover at a lower price with a standalone policy.

Do I need home emergency cover as a tenant?

No. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to make repairs. But it’s a good idea to discuss how they’ll handle things in an emergency. That way, uncertainty about who’s doing what won’t add to your stress levels if something happens.

Do I need home emergency cover as a landlord?

As a landlord, you may have a good network of tradespeople to call upon. And if you already have a repair fund, you may not feel home emergency cover is worth the extra expense.

But it could still take the stress out of dealing with a difficult situation. Someone else will find the right professional to fix the problem. And at least some of the costs will be covered. That can be especially helpful if you live far from the property you rent out.

Is there a limit on home emergency cover claims?

Some policies offer unlimited claims, but those will be more expensive. Most will have a limit on the amount you can claim for each incident. There may also be a limit on the number of claims you can make in a year.

Will making a claim affect my No Claims Discount?

If you have a standalone home emergency cover policy, making a claim won’t affect the No Claims Discount on your home insurance. They’re two separate things.

But if it’s included as standard or as an optional extra in your home insurance, it may count as a claim. You’ll need to check the wording of your policy document to know for sure.

Cutting the risk of disasters

You can’t remove the risk of emergencies altogether. But regular home maintenance could reduce the chances of you needing to make a claim. That includes:

  • Getting your boiler serviced regularly
  • Re-pressurising your boiler as necessary
  • Bleeding your radiators
  • Clearing your gutters and drains
  • Checking your roof for cracked or broken tiles
  • Clearing away food scraps and waste promptly, to avoid attracting pests
  • Not washing oil, food scraps or coffee grounds down your sink (the same goes for hair or sanitary products down your loo)

Home emergency cover: the bottom line

Home emergency cover can give you peace of mind that there’s someone to help if disaster strikes. If you’re worried about covering unexpected expenses or finding a tradesperson in an emergency, it could be a wise investment.

Also read:
Guide to making a home insurance claim 
Here’s why your home insurance claim could be rejected
Home & Contents insurance: How do I work out the value of the contents of my home? 
Landlords buildings & contents insurance quotes, specialist insurance