Home emergency cover

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What is home emergency cover?

Home emergency cover is insurance that covers the cost of urgent repairs when things go wrong, like burst pipes and central heating problems in winter.

You’ll typically be covered for boiler/heating system breakdown, blocked drains, electrical faults and household security - for example, a broken window. Some insurance providers offer additional cover for problems like pest infestations or roof damage.

The important thing to remember is that home emergency cover only pays out for the initial call-out and repairs. It won’t cover the cost of fixing secondary damage caused by the emergency. For that, you can claim on your buildings insurance or contents insurance, depending on what’s damaged.

Home emergency policies can vary among providers. Always read your policy documents carefully so you know exactly what’s covered and what’s not.

What does home emergency insurance cover?

Exactly what your policy covers will depend on how much you pay and which insurance provider you choose. As a rough guide, you can expect your emergency home insurance to cover some or all of the following:

Boiler breakdown

If you’re left without hot water, an approved engineer will be sent to your property to deal with the emergency. Some home emergency plans include an annual boiler service as well as urgent repairs.

Central heating failure

You can also get help to cover the cost of emergency repairs to your central heating system and radiators. It’s worth noting that policies often have specific times of the year when your boiler and heating would be covered as an emergency if they break down – so you might not be able to claim during the summer months.

Burst pipes

A damaged pipe that’s caused water to leak or flood inside your home can be fixed urgently under emergency cover. Any pipes outside your home won’t be covered as these are usually the responsibility of the local council or water company.

Blocked drains

You can also get help for an emergency caused by a problem with your drainage system.

Roof damage

If your roof is damaged in bad weather, urgent repairs can be carried out to make your home safe and dry again.

Electrical failure

If your fuse box blows or an electrical fault leaves you without power, having home emergency cover could remedy the problem quickly. Power cuts caused by the grid won’t be covered.

Broken doors or windows

If your home is left insecure because of a smashed window or broken door lock, your policy could help fix the problem.

Lost keys

Some insurance providers offer replacements for lost or stolen keys so you can get back into your home safely.

Pest infestations

You may be covered for invasions by mice, rats and wasps. Any pests that need to be removed by a specialist, like bees or moths, are usually excluded.

Alternative accommodation

If damage makes your home unsafe to live in, some insurance providers may pay to put you and your family in a hotel or other temporary accommodation until repairs are completed.

Remember, home emergency cover is there to help alleviate an emergency situation, like an unsafe or unsecure home, a risk to your health and safety or that of your family, or a risk of further damage to your property.

What isn’t covered by home emergency cover?

Your home emergency cover won’t include every eventuality and exclusions will vary among providers. Policies won’t cover general wear and tear, for example, so it’s important to maintain your central heating system. Most insurance providers will also insist you have your boiler serviced annually. If you don’t, it could invalidate your cover.

Home emergency cover also generally doesn't cover:

  • Routine maintenance
  • Damp, mould and rot
  • Older boilers (the exact age will be specified in the policy, but could be anything from eight to 15 years)
  • Minor issues like a dripping tap or a single broken electrical socket
  • Pest infestation of outbuildings
  • Any extra work beyond fixing the original issue. Home emergency insurance would cover the cost of repairing a burst pipe, for example, but not any damage to the carpet it soaked.

Do I need home emergency cover?

It’s not a legal requirement, but when you consider the potential cost of dealing with household crises, home emergency cover could well be worth it.

An emergency boiler repair can cost anything from £200 to £600, and if a part needs replacing you could be looking at an even bigger bill. A new boiler could cost anything from £500 up to several thousand pounds. You also have call-out charges and installation costs to consider on top of that. A burst pipe could cost between £160 and £310 to repair.

If you’re renting, you won’t need home emergency cover – it’s the responsibility of the landlord to take care of any emergencies.

There are also alternatives to home emergency cover that you might like to consider. Boiler insurance offers more comprehensive protection for a boiler breakdown and can be extended to your central heating system, pipes and electrics if you pay extra. Another option is home appliance insurance. This can cover the cost of repairs if something goes wrong with your domestic appliances, but it doesn’t cover boilers. 

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Will my home insurance cover emergencies?

Your standard home insurance policy covers you for events like fire, flood, theft and vandalism. It won’t usually protect you in a sudden emergency like your boiler breaking down, a pipe bursting or your fuse box blowing.

There are home insurance policies that offer very limited home emergency cover as standard but, usually, if you want to be protected for unexpected emergencies, you’ll need to add home emergency cover to your policy and pay a little more for your premium. Alternatively, you can buy a standalone home emergency policy. 

What details do you need to get a home emergency cover quote?

You’ll need to provide some information about yourself and your home to help you find the right cover, including:

  • Your name and address
  • The type of building you want to insure and whether you own it
  • How much protection you need
  • How old your boiler is and whether it was serviced in the past year. 

You can either buy home emergency cover with your home insurance or as a separate policy. With a standalone policy, cover is usually pretty flexible so you can choose the elements that are most important to you. You could choose cover just for your boiler, or a policy that includes your boiler, heating, pipes and electrics. Some policies even include an annual boiler service, which could save you money. But the more you choose to cover, the higher the cost is likely to be.

Are there limits to home emergency cover?

There may well be limits for the amount you can claim and how many call-outs you can make in a year, but this will depend on the insurance provider you go with.

Basic emergency cover, perhaps offered as part of a standard home insurance policy, might only pay out as little as £200 per claim, with no significant cover for boiler repairs and no more than three claims allowed in a year. With more comprehensive policies, the maximum claim amount could be at least £1,500 per repair, with boilers, central heating and electrics all covered. Plus, you may be able to make unlimited call-outs in a year. 

Where can I find home emergency cover?

Home emergency cover is available as an optional extra when you compare home insurance quotes with us. It’s quick and easy to get a home insurance quote – just give us a few details about yourself and your home, and we’ll give you a list of quotes from a range of trusted UK providers in minutes.

Get a home insurance quote

If you’re looking for a standalone home care plan that covers more than just emergencies, Compare the Market has partnered with Hometree, who provide a range of packages to ensure the smooth running of your home.

Go to Hometree

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What our expert says...

“Although home emergency cover isn’t a necessity, it can save you the hassle of trying to find a tradesperson at short notice. It could even save you money in the long run. Just make sure you check your policy for limits and exclusions as you might find you’re not covered for everything you think you are.”

- Chris King, Home insurance expert

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Frequently asked questions

Does home emergency cover need to be bought separately?

You can usually add home emergency cover as an extra to your home insurance for an additional fee. It might even be included as standard on some home insurance policies, although what you can claim for is likely to be quite restricted. Taking home emergency cover out as a standalone policy will usually cost you more than adding it on to your home insurance, but it can give you more extensive cover.

Can I get home emergency cover for a second home?

Yes, but you’ll need to make sure you tell your insurance provider that the property isn’t your main residence. Emergency assistance can be very welcome if there’s a major problem in the property, like a burst pipe, collapsed ceiling or boiler breakdown, especially if you have guests staying at the time. If your second home is left occupied for longer than 30 days, you may have difficulty getting emergency cover.

Is there an excess when you make a home emergency cover claim?

Often there will be. This means you’ll be expected to pay the first part of a claim. You’ll be asked to agree to this when you take out the policy. The higher the excess, the lower your premium tends to be. Some policies won’t set an excess, but these are likely to be more expensive. Check when you take out home emergency cover if there’s an excess and make sure you can afford to pay it if you need to make a claim.

Is there a no claims bonus with home emergency cover?

Home insurance policies typically come with a no claims bonus, meaning you could get a lower premium if you don’t make a claim that year. If your emergency cover is linked to your home insurance, you’ll need to check your policy to find out whether a home emergency claim means losing your no claims bonus.

If you have standalone home emergency cover, making a claim won’t affect the no claims discount on your main home insurance.

How can I cut the cost of home emergency cover?

There’s a few ways you can make sure you’re not overpaying for your home emergency cover:

  • Check your home insurance to see if any cover is included as standard and if it’s sufficient for your needs.
  • Pay annually, rather than monthly – this is usually cheaper.
  • Always compare insurance providers to make sure you’re getting the best home emergency cover deal for you. But be sure to check for any claims limits and other restrictions before switching.

Will home emergency cover include my boiler?

Your home emergency cover should include your boiler, but that may depend on its age and condition. You’ll need to check the policy details. Alternatively, you may want to look into buying separate boiler insurance.

What is considered a home emergency?

This may vary among insurance providers, so it’s important to know exactly what your insurance provider considers an emergency.

Most insurance providers define a household emergency as something that:

  • Could cause permanent damage to your home
  • May make your home unsafe
  • Poses a risk to health.

Do I need home emergency cover if I rent?

No. Boiler repairs and other maintenance costs are your landlord’s responsibility, so it’s down to them to make sure they have cover.

How fast will I get a response?

Your policy will set out how quickly you can expect a response from your insurance provider. Many have 24-hour helplines, so you should be able to reach someone no matter what time of day you call. But it doesn’t always mean a tradesperson will be available to come out to you straight away.

How much does home emergency cover cost?

Providers typically charge a flat fee for adding home emergency cover to your home insurance. Different providers will charge different amounts based on several factors, including the overall amount of cover included in their product – for example, how much you can claim or the maximum number of claims you can make in a year. The type of cover offered will also be taken into account – for example, does it include your boiler and heating system or only your boiler?

Will I be offered alternative accommodation if my home is uninhabitable?

Some home emergency policies will cover the cost of staying in alternative accommodation overnight or for the short-term if your home has been left uninhabitable because of damage. But if you need to vacate your property for a longer period, you can usually claim on your home insurance as most policies include alternative accommodation cover as standard.

How do I claim on my home emergency cover?

If you think the problem is urgent, call your provider’s 24-hour emergency helpline as soon as you can. They’ll assess how serious the issue is and should send out a tradesperson within a few hours – or at least within 24 hours. Don’t try to arrange repairs yourself if you want to make a claim on your home emergency policy. You won’t be covered if you get a local tradesperson to come out who hasn’t been directly appointed by your provider.

Is there a limit on how much I can claim?

In all likelihood, yes. The amount you can claim for will vary, according to which policy you choose. Some basic policies, for example, set the limit at £250 per claim, with an annual claim limit of £1,000. The more you pay for your cover, the higher the claim limits are likely to be. There might also be a limit on the number of emergency incidents you can claim for in a year.