Defaqto warns homeowners that their insurance could leave them out in the cold this winter

06 November 2018

Less than a fifth (19%) of home contents insurance policies and only a quarter (25%) of home buildings policies include cover for home emergencies, such as boiler breakdown, as standard (contents policies: 78 out of 415, buildings policies: 98 out of 397).

As the nights draw in and temperatures tumble, financial information business Defaqto urges homeowners to check whether they have protection for their boiler and heating system before winter sets in.

New analysis by Defaqto reveals that of the 415 home contents insurance policies currently on the market, less than a fifth (19%) include cover for home emergencies, such as boiler breakdown, as standard.   Buildings insurance doesn’t offer much of an alternative, with only a quarter (25%) of the 397 policies currently on the market providing cover for home emergencies, as standard.

For those looking to protect their homes this winter, approximately half of all contents and buildings insurance policies currently on the market offer ‘home emergency’ cover as an optional add-on; 195 out of 415 (47%) of contents insurance policies, and 199 out of 397 (50%) of buildings insurance policies.

Home Contents insurance Policies


 Level of cover available



do not provide cover



provide cover as "standard"



provide cover as "optional"

*Product data sourced from Defaqto Matrix database 31/10/18

Home Buildings insurance Policies


 Level of cover available



do not provide cover



provide cover as "standard"



provide cover as "optional"

*Product data sourced from Defaqto Matrix database 31/10/18

Another alternative is to purchase a separate ‘standalone’ home emergency insurance.

Currently, there are many adverts for boiler breakdown insurance, which specifically cover boilers and should not be confused with home emergency insurance:

Boiler breakdown insurance is specifically designed to protect a boiler against the cost of future breakdown. Primarily these products cover the cost of any repairs to a boiler to get it up and running again but not necessarily replace it if it is broken. A large proportion include an annual boiler service. With a new boiler costing anywhere upwards of £500, 53% of policies available (27 out of 51) will cover costs of at least £500 or more towards a replacement boiler, with 11 policies (22%) offering unlimited cover towards replacement.  However, there will be exclusions based on the age and power output of the boiler.

Home emergency insurance covers a range of emergencies that affect the home.  It is designed to help people who have been hit by an emergency to make their home safe again or reinstate essential services.  It offers more comprehensive cover than boiler breakdown insurance and can provide some peace of mind heading into the winter months when homes are at risks of central heating failure, burst pipes, electrical failure and roof damage caused by extreme weather. 

For example, homeowners who find that their home is flooded due to burst pipes or extreme weather conditions, may find that with home emergency insurance they will be covered for alternative accommodation, should their home be under water.  Of those policies currently on the market, 56% (179 of 319) provide alternative accommodation for an unlimited number of nights. However, costs covered can be low.   13% of these policies (41 out of 319) will only provide a total maximum of £100 – £200 towards the cost of alternative accommodation.  48% (153 out of 319) will cover a maximum of £250 - £500, with 13% (41 out of 319) offering £750 - £3000 towards accommodation costs.  Only 2% (5 out of 319) will cover unlimited costs towards alternative accommodation. 

Home emergency insurance is sometimes added on to home contents and buildings insurance and packaged bank accounts or offered through utility providers, so it is worth checking whether there is already cover in place and checking for any exclusions, before buying a new policy. It can be bought as a standalone product and there are currently, 114 such policies available in the market place.

Home Emergency cover – where it can be found


add on - bank account


add on - home contents insurance


add on - home buildings insurance


standalone - home emergency


standalone - utility provider


Grand Total









Brian Brown, Head of Insight at Defaqto, comments:

“As the temperature starts to drop, having hot water and heating becomes a higher priority again. Modern boilers are expensive and the cost of having to replace one can be a nasty shock. If you don’t have the funds to pay for this, then a boiler breakdown policy that includes boiler replacement, may be a good option for you. 

“Extreme winter weather can bring with it unexpected, unpleasant events such as flooding and very icy conditions leading to homes under water and a breakdown in heating systems.  Those homeowners looking for a more comprehensive cover may find a home emergency policy provides greater comfort, however the extent of cover can be limited, so it’s always worth checking the market to find a policy that’s right for your circumstances. Our microsite enables consumers to select a feature, such as ‘Home emergency cover available’, to see the policies that offer this. Alongside this you can also see the Star Rating our experts have awarded the policy, based on not just this feature but the quality and comprehensiveness of a very wide range of features and benefits.”

Top tips to protect yourself this winter:

  • Check what cover you already have with your home insurance policy
  • Check for any exclusions, such as the age or power output of the boiler and whether it needs to be regularly serviced or inspected
  • If you bought your boiler within the last few years, check what cover the manufacturer gives as standard under the warranty, and check for any exclusions
  • If you have a heating system that is powered by an electric boiler, solar or solid fuel, check whether your policy includes cover for this as many do not.

To help prevent pipes freezing[1]:

  • Keep your heating on at regular intervals and make sure to set it on a timer if you’re going away
  • Make sure that water pipes and water tanks in the loft are insulated with good quality lagging
  • Know where your stopcock that turns off the incoming water supply is, and make sure that it works
  • Repair any dripping taps. This will help prevent water from freezing.

If your pipes freeze:

  • Turn water off at the main stopcock straight away and then wait for it to warm up or you can try and thaw the pipes with a hot water bottle
  • If a pipe has burst, turn off the water at the stopcock. Switch off central heating and any other water heating installations. Open all taps to drain the system
  • Contact your insurance company helpline for help and advice, including arranging for professional repairs to be carried out
  • Finally, be prepared and make sure you have the emergency contact details for your insurance provider or emergency plumber should you need them.

Data taken from Defaqto Matrix 31/10/18

About Defaqto:

About Defaqto

Defaqto is a financial information business, helping financial institutions and consumers make better informed decisions.

Our independent fund and product information helps banks, insurers and fund managers with designing and promoting their propositions. We analyse around 41,000 financial products in the UK. These products change on a daily basis, and our customers need help with keeping track of this.

We have been doing this for over 20 years and have over 60 analysts spending 400 hours a day monitoring the market. They ensure that the information we provide is accurate and up to date. Our experts have done all the hard work so that financial institutions and consumers can make better informed decisions.

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