No boiler cover? It could be a long, hard winter...

As Homeserve faces its own emergency and hangs up its telephones on new business, Chiara Cavaglieri looks at your policy options for home-breakdown insurance

Another mis-selling scandal could come to light after insurer Homeserve suspended telephone sales and closed new business until its sales processes can be brought up to scratch.

The company, which markets itself as the "fifth emergency service", offers cover against boiler breakdowns, and plumbing and drainage problems. The announcement caused shares to nosedive last week.

With winter fast approaching, this couldn't come at a worse time for Homeserve. Its three million UK customers will be twitchy at the news. So what other options are left if you want protection against broken boilers and burst pipes this winter?

Figures from uSwitch show that a fifth of households suffered a broken boiler in the cold snap last year, with an average repair cost of £320. A new boiler, meanwhile, has a price tag of about £1,500 should your boiler prove a write-off.

"Boilers are often one of the most expensive items in a home, so avoiding a breakdown can save you time and money," says Emily Stagg from npower, whose call-outs soared by 80 per cent last year because of pipes freezing and overworked boilers malfunctioning.

Don't simply opt for cover from your energy supplier without checking for a better deal first, and remember that it isn't always about getting the cheapest possible quote. Homeserve offers some of the most competitive prices, but with its reputation currently under scrutiny it shows cheapest isn't necessarily best.

"Homeserve offers the cheapest heat cover plan at £7.43 a month, with British Gas not far behind at £10.50 a month," says Mark Todd, director of "A lot of customers tend to like the peace of mind and track record associated with the British Gas brand."

Before you begin your hunt, though, first check that you actually need boiler cover. If you're a tenant, your landlord is responsible for repairing the boiler, not you. Also, if your boiler has been installed recently it will have a manufacturer's guarantee (typically, 12 months). Even if you've had your boiler some time, you may have cover under your home contents insurance policy. Some insurers allow you to add boiler cover to their policy, so compare this premium to the cost of stand-alone cover.

As well as using several comparison sites, such as uSwitch and Energyhelpline, get a few direct quotes – npower, for example, doesn't feature on all comparison sites, but, for £10.50 per month, its hometeam50 policy covers an annual boiler service and safety check, plus unlimited call-outs and repairs, with a £50 excess. You don't need to be an npower customer to take out this policy – but if you do have a dual fuel tariff with them and you don't use the call-out service within the 12 months they will refund 50 per cent of the premium.

Once you've got an idea of the premiums available, dig a little deeper at the terms and conditions. There could be an initial no-claims period of up to 28 days in which you won't be able to make a claim. Don't assume that you have unlimited cover; some pay only to a maximum level per claim and/or limit the number of call-outs within the year. With the AA, for example, you can have no more than four boiler breakdown claims a year. Domestic and General limits the value of repairs to £1,500 per year and Homeserve gives no more than £200 towards a replacement boiler on all policies.

"For many people, peace of mind is the main reason for taking out a contract, but you should be aware that not everything will be covered," says Hazel Cottrell of Which?. "For example, some policies won't cover more than two boiler breakdowns a year and some won't renew the cover of your boiler if it reaches a certain age."

Many providers are strict about how old your boiler can be, so if yours is a older than 15 years you will struggle to find cover. Other plans will require you to have a boiler inspection first, so you may need to stump up some cash to get your heating system updated before being offered a plan.

Keep an eye out for additional benefits. One extra is a free annual service and safety inspection, which could be worth about £100 and helps to reduce the chance of potentially fatal carbon monoxide leaks. As well as boiler-only cover, you can take out cover for home emergencies; this is usually fairly cheap but may offer less cover. As with boiler-only plans, it may be possible to add home emergency cover to your annual contents insurance policy. Aviva charges £59.40 for this and Co-operative charges just 1p per month for the first 12 months to add HomeRescue Plus, but again, you need to watch out for exclusions.

Expert View

Mark Todd,

"Getting a heat cover plan is quick, easy and could save you a packet – but, as with energy tariffs and most other financial services, it's important to compare all your options to understand if you're getting the best deal for your circumstances."

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

    Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

    £25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

    Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea