We undertake a lot of boiler repair work on behalf of many of the UK’s leading insurance companies and we have to adhere exactly to the terms of those policies. Unfortunately this means that it falls to us to inform the customer if repair cannot be covered by the policy that they took out for that very purpose. This can leave you with a repair bill you weren’t expecting plus you could have been paying out for cover you may never have been able to claim for anyway.
For the most part, these terms are things that are entirely reasonable but if you don’t know about them, you can’t resolve them and would only find out at the point where you need to claim. Every policy is different so there’s no definitive guide to what is covered and what’s not – you’d need to examine your own policy for the details – but these are the common issues that we come across on a regular basis:
A policy could never be expected to resolve issues on a boiler that hasn’t been installed properly in the first place. This could include things like there not being a tundish installed (to provide a visible indication that something is wrong) or the pipework into the boiler being inadequate. The thing is, if you’re not a heating engineer yourself how would you know? Some policies will provide an initial boiler inspection when you take the policy out and this should highlight any issues but if it doesn’t you should definitely get it checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Most policies will state a limit of the age of boiler that it will cover. Often this will be around 7-10 years but policies can differ. If your boiler is older than this, double check the terms of your policy or ring your insurance company for further advice.
Most policies require you to take reasonable steps to maintain your boiler and heating system properly, and won’t cover you if it’s been neglected. This can include it not having been serviced regularly prior to the cover being taken, a build-up of sludge or airlocks in the system. In the case of sludge build-up, for example, that is something that you would be expected to resolve (with a power-flushing service) at your own expense. Don’t leave this until you experience a problem as this could invalidate your cover even if you get that particular issue fixed yourself.
You should also be aware that the items listed above would invalidate your policy regardless of whether they’re the cause of the problem with the boiler. So, for example, if the responding engineer discovered sludge in the system even if that wasn’t the reason that the boiler broke down – you would probably not be covered.
Most policies come with an upper limit on the cost of the repair. This will vary from policy to policy but you need to be aware of what this is. If the cost of repairing your boiler is in excess of the limit, you will need to pay the difference, often before any work will be undertaken.
Most policies will include an initial period from taking out the policy in which you cannot make a claim. This will often be around 30 days and is to stop people only taking out policies once they have a problem. It would be bad luck to suddenly have an issue straight after taking out a policy but it does highlight the importance of taking them out as a precaution rather than waiting until things start to go wrong.
You may be reading this and wondering whether these home policies are actually worth paying for. We would say that they definitely can be, as long as you know what you’re signing up for and understand the requirements of the policy. A major breakdown could land you with an unexpected bill of £100s and that’s what these policies protect you from, as long as you’ve satisfied all the terms. They also make sure your boiler gets an annual service which is an important part of keeping your boiler working properly (and maintaining any warranties).
Read your policy documentation carefully so you understand the limitations and feel free to ask the policy provider questions about what would and wouldn’t be covered. If it includes an initial boiler check at the start of the policy then this should pick up on anything that might be an issue so make sure you get that arranged as soon as possible. If it doesn’t you might want to get a heating engineer in at your own expense prior to taking out a policy to get everything double checked, serviced and cleaned out.
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