Updated - Briefing: What is a home emergency

Cold woman

I’m 168 hours into a home emergency. For seven days I have had no hot water and no heating. This is an emergency for me but my provider seems to think otherwise.

If I had broken down by the roadside this would not be an acceptable wait, if I had been in an accident could an ambulance have been sent hours later and if my house was on fire could the fire brigade rock up seven days later and think it was ok? The answer is no. So why is it acceptable for an insurance policy labelled ‘emergency’ to be left unresolved for so long?

When buying a car earlier in the year and getting insurance from a well-known multi-cover provider I was upsold a home insurance policy. I was saving money on having our two cars on the policy, so why not add my home cover when that came up for renewal too? Was it like-for-like? Oh yes, and as a platinum customer home emergency, which I was paying extra for elsewhere, was all included. The date for renewal came and went and I’ll be honest I paid little attention to it.

Then last Friday the boiler packed up – it suddenly showed no sign of life, it ceased to be, expired, went to meet its maker. No lights on the boiler and the house was freezing. “No problem,” I cried. “We have home emergency cover.”

I went to dig out the policy and sure enough we were now covered by the new provider and had been for 8 days. I dutifully rang the number on the paperwork and sat in the queue. When my time came to be answered my details were nowhere to be found by one of the largest loss adjusters in the UK. I was routed back to the provider which confirmed I was on day eight of the policy and should be there. Another 20 minute wait took me back to the third party supplier whose computer still said ‘no’ and after over an hour to-ing and fro-ing between the two it was agreed I was indeed covered. This was an inconvenience and came as a real surprise after reading blog upon blog published on this very site about how tech savvy loss adjusters are, how joined up with providers they are and how important service levels are. Once I had been found I was told someone would ring within the hour, given a link to a claims hub and told I could spend £50 on heaters to warm my four-bedroom town house. Also I’d be given extra if my house was uninhabitable. Indeed someone did ring and an engineer from a third company was on site later that day. A faulty part was blamed and ordered and I felt confident we’d be warm again soon.

Then it all started to fall apart. 48 hours went with no contact. I accessed the hub – updated that my preferred contact method was email (this is yet to happen, although I have had lots of calls and several texts) and requested an update on the claim.  

Four days in and after agreeing to pay the extra over my allotted home emergency cover level for the labour needed to fit the part the engineer finally came back. However, his conduct and actions were unsatisfactory. He logged on the system that he was here and working in our house for almost two hours but for at least 20 mins of that he was on his phone and was heard saying lots of worrying things including “What are these two blue wires?”; “why am I replacing the whole front when it’s just the PCR that is down?”, “I’m at a loss here” and “the unit is showing no power - oh I’d better switch it on”. 

I’m fearful for what has been done or that my claim has been exaggerated. And no it is still not working. After he ran out of the house with the ‘burnt out’ part that he wouldn’t show me I called the claims number again and requested customer service – to be informed calls were recorded and just to send an email in! I did just that. 

Five days in with no heating and no hot water. We have a Covid vulnerable householder who suffers from arthritis and is affected by the cold and one child with additional needs. Not once have I been asked about that although I have volunteered the information twice. No caring loss adjuster or insurer at this point checked on our wellbeing at what is an emotional and upsetting time and, nor it seems had their system flagged a home emergency claim still live after five days so is this the norm?

That morning I started this blog. It was also the day a representative from the insurer called and said as the fault was not fixed a new claim would be started – we can have as many claims as we like in the policy year. An electrician was dispatched who informed us the starting point should have been resolving the power issue and he had no idea why other parts were changed before this – the system was never going to work without this and we’ve paid for a new part I’m not sure we needed. We then had power to the boiler and a flashing fault code but still no water or heating. This engineer could not help further with that as it is not his specialism. That evening a regional manager from the loss adjuster called and agreed we could buy ‘as many heaters as we like’ now, she wanted to know we were warm and that our vulnerable householder was not suffering. This felt a bit better.

Day six and a new claims service provider was appointed with our permission to ‘get to the bottom’ of what has happened. They are hoping to send a specialist in our system so they carry the parts if any are needed.   

This is still an emergency for us and the policy seems not worth the paper it is written on. First world problems but the children are being washed from a washing up bowl with kettle boiled water, while the adults are washing hair in the sink with jugs of warmed water. A week in and now we have admitted that maybe we’ll take up the £250 alterative accommodation offer. This hasn’t been an option for us before because with a child with additional needs being away from the house and routine for any period can be extremely distressing. But now it might help if only to be able to have a proper wash nearby in hot water.

I’m still seriously considering moving provider because what if the next claim on my actual household policy was a flood or a fire? Would it be deemed an emergency then?

Day seven and we await the next engineer – could today be the day? Probably not as we’ve just had the call to say he has been delayed. 

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