How to get one of the best home emergency policies

Digby Bodenham By Digby Bodenham

Home emergency insurance is a controversial subject. Some people say these policies save them hundreds of pounds on callouts and give them peace of mind, while others claim they are a waste money.

However, we’ve found that many people could receive emergency cover for free – in fact, some already do and don’t even know it.

Some firms such as British Gas charge up to £234 a year for it but we’ve partnered with a well-respected insurer called Together Mutual to offer our members a discount on its policies that include home emergency as standard.

What is home emergency cover?

Companies have different names for it. For example, British Gas calls it HomeCare and the AA sells it as boiler cover and home cover. Most insurers describe it has home emergency cover, or something similar.

It is designed to keep your home running in the event of unexpected breakdowns, so it can cover the cost of callouts for problems with your boiler, central heating, plumbing, electrics or vermin infestations.

Some policies include an annual boiler service and others have limits on callout times and materials they will pay for.

Do I need it?

The policy itself can be very useful; it means common emergencies such as burst pipes are covered, you won’t have to find an engineer at short notice because the company you are paying will arrange a callout and it won’t affect your home insurance no claims bonus.

There may be elements of the service that you already have cover for. Home insurance will pay out for many emergencies but you may end up paying more in the long term if a callout causes your premium to rise. But you’ll see in the next section that some insurers offer home emergency cover as part of their policies.

Also, some emergencies might not actually cost much to repair, so you could just save each month to make sure you’ve got a safety fund. And some utility firms will fix certain issues for free.

A better question might be, is it worth it?

We’ve negotiated a discount with an insurer that offers it for free, so you don’t even have to pay for it separately.

In general, questions about value are much more subjective, however, the next sections aim to highlight the things you should think about when considering policies.

How to get it for free

The best way to get a free home emergency policy is through a home insurer. Many offer it as an add-on that costs more but there are a handful that have comprehensive emergency callout services as standard.

One them is Together Mutual, who we’ve recently partnered with to offer our members an exclusive discount. Its home insurance and emergency cover have been rated as 4 Star services out of 5 by independent financial researcher Defaqto.

A Star Rating indicates where a product or proposition sits in the market based on the quality and comprehensiveness of the features it offers.

This policy does not affect your no claims bonus if you have a callout and Together Mutual says it will get someone to you to fix the problem within two hours if you’re in an urban area and within four hours for rural homes.

There’s a 24/7 helpline and Together Mutual will cover the costs of the callout, labour and up to £100 or parts. There’s an £1,000 annual limit on callouts but it says only 5% of cases go over the limit.

All boilers under 15 years old are covered as long as they’ve been serviced. Once it’s been serviced it will be covered again, even if you had a callout before.

Home emergency cover was one of the features that stood out to us and made Bought By Many want to work with Together Mutual. Other firms such as Asda Money and AXA only offer this service on their more comprehensive policies, whereas Together Mutual has it as standard on all buildings and contents products.

HomeProtect also has a 5 Star home emergency plan but it has a £600 annual limit.

Of course, home emergency is built in to your overall cover so you could argue that the cost is built in too. It will be to an extent but we found that Together Mutual’s quotes are very competitive, even compared with companies that don’t offer home emergency.

For example, Together Mutual quotes annual premiums of £160.86 (Premium policy) or £260.69 (Premier Plus policy) for a two-bed semi-detached house in Milton Keynes. Both include home emergency.

For the same type of property M&S’s cheapest policy, with slightly less cover than Together Mutual, is £295.38 with a 5 Star home emergency add-on. Aviva’s cheapest buildings only policy with home emergency cover is £213.96 a year, but its emergency cover isn’t as comprehensive.

And if you use the Bought By Many discount you’ll be saving even more money. Our members can receive up to 50% off a Together Mutual policy along with a £20 Marks & Spencer voucher. You can join our group to receive the discount here.

We believe people deserve fairer insurance premiums so we've created groups that consumers can join for free. We then use your combined buying power to negotiate better and often cheaper deals with insurers.

Is there a difference between standalone home emergency policies and those offered by home insurers?

In general, standalone home emergency policies, such as British Gas’s HomeCare, are very similar to those offered by insurers. Some insurance emergency schemes even offer more cover, for example, for problems with your roof or dealing with vermin.

But the main difference can be whether the policy offers an annual boiler service. Insurers don’t tend to include this but it’s worth taking a look at the economics.

British Gas’s cheapest HomeCare product costs £10 a month and includes a boiler service and boiler emergency cover. But a boiler service should cost you between £65 and £100, so if you have home emergency cover through your insurance you can save money by paying a trusted local contractor for a service.

To get a similar level of cover to Together Mutual from British Gas you’d have to pay more than £17 a month or £212.40 a year. That does include a boiler service.

If you take Together Mutual’s Milton Keynes quotes and add £100 for a boiler service you’d be paying either £260.86 or £360.69 a year at most, depending on your policy, for comprehensive buildings and contents insurance, home emergency cover and a boiler check. As opposed to British Gas’s £212.40 for just emergency cover and a boiler check.

There are no rules on how often you should have a boiler service, but most companies say it should be done once a year.

Why to do people say it’s a scam?

A business called Homeserve was handed a record £30.6m fine in 2014 partly for mis-selling home emergency cover to those who did not need it, so it’s understandable that it has bad press.

For some people it is not good value, especially if they have an insurance home emergency service. But for others it is worth considering, for example, if you’re a landlord and not using an agency.

As a freebie it can be a convenient way of dealing with unexpected problems and save you money on callouts. Be aware of any companies giving you the hard sell on individual home emergency cover with a monthly fee.

Many big companies do offer it: Lloyds Premier account holders have access to it through AA, and HSBC, Saga, Halifax and M&S all offer it as an optional extra.

But why pay for it when you can get it for free with Together Mutual through our home insurance group?

This article was independently written by Bought By Many. We were not paid to write it, but we may receive commission for sales that result from you clicking on a link to one of our partners.

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