How landlords can protect against home emergencies

It's something all landlords dread, with good cause: a call from a tenant in the middle of the night saying emergency assistance is needed. Whether it's a leaky pipe pumping out water over the floor, news of a burglary or a major electrical fault, chances are it's going to be inconvenient and expensive.

Fortunately, home emergency insurance is available to help landlords cope with these challenges, both practically and in terms of cost. This type of policy helps you cope with emergencies, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What does emergency assistance insurance cover?

This type of insurance provides protection against unforeseeable situations that need urgent action to avoid the property becoming unsafe, posing a risk to tenants or causing further damage to the building.

Examples of when you might call for assistance include...

  • plumbing leaks which threaten to cause water damage
  • total breakdown of a heating system during winter
  • failure of the water, gas or electrical system
  • infestation by pests or rodents

Emergency assistance insurance also provides cover against call-outs for the perennial tenant complaint – lost keys where alternative access to the property is not possible, or broken locks making entrance impossible.

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Your responsibilities as a landlord

As all landlords know, it is important to keep your rental property well maintained and in a good state of repair. This not only helps keep your tenants happy and makes a public liability claim against you less likely, but it is also a condition of emergency assistance insurance.

If, for example, the electrical system in your property was known to be faulty or you had not had it serviced for a very long time, your insurer may refuse cover if emergency assistance is needed.

The way you respond to these situations can have a significant impact on your relationship with your tenants. For tenants, an emergency is likely to be very stressful and responsive landlords will be rewarded with additional good will and possibly extended leases, whereas a landlord who appears angry at an emergency which is not the tenant's fault, or resentful at the cost, is likely to have to drive away good tenants.

What qualifies as an emergency?

There are also some situations that need to be rectified promptly, but do not qualify as fully-fledged emergencies. For instance, if a toilet has a slow dripping leak from the cistern this requires attention, but an emergency call-out would not be reasonable.

Similarly, if an appliance is faulty only when in use, such as a leaking shower, but poses no risk when turned off then an emergency service would not be required. In this situation an ordinary plumber will provide the right level of assistance.

Storm damage is a clear example of an emergency that could not have been foreseen. In the aftermath of a storm that causes widespread fallen trees and damage to roofs in an area, it can be difficult to secure emergency assistance because of the increased demand. With emergency assistance insurance, the insurer will worry about finding an emergency contractor, saving you the headache.

How insurance helps in an emergency

To use emergency assistance insurance, you call your insurer's 24-hour helpline and report the problem. Alternatively your tenant could do this on your behalf. Many landlords prefer this, as it saves them the stress and disruption of receiving that late-night call.

The insurer will take details of the problem and identify the type of assistance required. The insurer will then send out a suitable emergency assistance contractor to the property.

Insurance policies usually provide assistance up to a pre-set limit, such as £500. This would cover the contractor's time plus parts, materials and VAT. If the property is made uninhabitable as a result of the issue, your insurer may pay you an additional sum in recognition of this.

Are you protected?

You might already have a good network of plumbers, electricians and handymen who help maintain your property for standard maintenance, but would they be available in an emergency? Urgent call-outs can be significantly more expensive, and harder to arrange, than every day services.

Why not consider taking out emergency assistance insurance to make sure you can cope with the unexpected?

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