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
Sunday 06 November 2011
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 Energyhelpline.com. "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.
Mark Todd, energyhelpline.com
"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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Use the new pension freedoms to boost your retirement income
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
The 10 Best money-saving sites
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Simon Read: Payday loans that are marketed at kids? Why not? They're already brainwashed into wanting products
- 1 2015 General Election: Green party will not appear in TV debate alongside Ukip – says BBC
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...
£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...
£45,000 - £65,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is a well-known APAC Corporate and...
£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...
Day In a Page
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000