Insuring against a domestic crisis
Home insurance providers are getting in on the ‘breakdown assist’ act, offering emergency services to deal with plumbing problems and broken boilers
HAVE YOU EVER found yourself stranded at home because your car, which is sitting outside your front door, won’t start? Or how about you have a car full of kids and get a puncture which you are unable to fix?
The solution, for many of us, is to call our car insurance provider. Now offered as standard on many car insurance policies, breakdown assist services have come to the aid of many in need. And now home insurance providers are getting in on the act, offering home emergency services to help you deal with those nasty surprises such as a leaking washing machine or broken boiler. But who offers them, how much do they cost, and are they worth investing in?
HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?
First off, a quick run-down on the cost. With the AA, which launched its home emergency response service to much fanfare earlier this year, you can expect to hand over €16.99 a month or €204 a year, for its product which includes the cost of an annual gas boiler service. If you’re willing to forego the boiler service, then you can get the service for €6.99 a month (€84 a year).
Bord Gáis also now offers a number of options for customers looking to keep their boilers in shape. Its bronze package, which costs from €99 a year, covers the cost of a service as well as call-out appointments within 48 hours for breakdowns.
Alternatively, for an extra €35 (€12.15 a month), you will get priority next working day appointments for breakdowns as part of its silver package as well as the cost of labour involved. If you really fear being left in the cold this winter, its gold package also covers the cost of any parts that might be needed as part of your boiler maintenance (up to €1,000 a year). It costs €159 a year, or €14.31 a month.
Chill.ie, in conjunction with Mapfre, also provides a home repair service. It costs €44 a year, and offers 24-hour, 365 days a year cover.
Moreover, some insurance providers, such as Zurich Insurance, offer a home emergency response service as part of its regular home policy. Its assistance service will arrange for an approved contractor to contact you immediately in the case of an emergency. If the incident is something that is covered under your home insurance policy, then Zurich will cover the cost of the visit – if it is not, then Zurich says the contractor will “offer a specially negotiated rate for the repair of the property”.
Or you can get such a service as a top-up on your existing policy. Aviva for example, charges €25 extra for its service, which includes providing overnight accommodation for up to four people if you find yourself unable to stay in your home for some reason.
WHAT DO THEY COVER?
For the most part, home emergency services are limited to plumbing incidents.
Bord Gáis’s cover is focused exclusively on boiler servicing, but with AA the range is wider, although it does centre on plumbing incidents, such as burst pipes, blocked drains, leaks, as well as the removal of rats, mice, wasps and hornets.
Chill.ie’s policy covers burst pipes, the loss of keys, and damage to external doors and windows, while Aviva’s offers similar coverage.
At AXA, it will organise and pay up to €250 including VAT, for call-out, labour, parts and materials to carry out repairs for emergencies such as plumbing, electricity failure or loss of keys. You can make just one claim during the period of insurance.
With the AA, you can make up to four claims a year, each one up to a maximum of €2,000 for labour, parts, materials including VAT. If you take out chill.ie’s policy, it will pay for the first €200 (plus VAT) of your emergency up to a maximum of three claims per year.
IS THERE ANY SMALL PRINT?
As with any type of insurance policy, home emergency cover also tends to come with exclusions, so it’s wise to take a look at the small print before you purchase.
With the AA and AXA for example, coverage does not cover boilers which are more than 15 years old, and the boiler must first pass a safety inspection before it is deemed eligible for cover. In addition, other exclusions include septic tanks, external water supply pipes and replacement of light bulbs and fuses in plugs.
Moreover, should you sign up for the policy and find that your boiler is broken a week later, you won’t be covered, as its cover only kicks in 15 days after you take out the policy.
At Bord Gáis, the service is only offered to those who pass its credit check test, so if you have fallen behind on bills in the past, you may not meet the grade. The energy provider also charges up to €12.72 extra if you choose to pay for your cover by a monthly direct debit rather than upfront, which can increase the cost of the service.
And beware of duplication in your cover. Some of the emergencies covered under these policies will also likely be included in your home insurance policy, such as damage to locks and windows due to a break-in.
ARE SUCH POLICIES WORTH IT?
For anyone who has worried about how much they might end up paying to get a leaking tap fixed, such policies might sound like a dream come true. Unfortunately however, while such policies sound very good in theory, they appear to have limited application, with cover limited to boiler services or specific incidents such as damage to windows.
If you’re particularly concerned about your heating breaking down in the winter, then the cover offered by Bord Gáis or AA might be a worthwhile investment, but just take the time to review coverage before you spend your money on it. Remember if your boiler is liable to break down regularly it may be older than 15 years – and then excluded from cover by the AA.
If applicable, a regular service of your boiler can be a prudent investment, given that it’s claimed that servicing your boiler can reduce the costs of your fuel expenditure by up to €150 a year.