Home Emergency Repairs In A Time Of COVID-19

 An “emergency” is the sudden and unforeseen damage to something in your property covered by your insurance policy or can be covered by your status as a tenant or lodger. For example:

Emergency 1Exposes you to a risk to your health  
Emergency 2Creates a risk of loss of or damage to your property  
Emergency 3Makes the buildings uninhabitable  

And where you are unable to temporarily stop the incident from causing further immediate damage within the main house of the property (e.g. you are unable to turn the water off, contain a leak or have no alternative facilities available) or, in the case of electrical emergencies, being totally without electricity.

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An “emergency repair” is generally taken to mean: repair works done by an engineer to resolve the immediate emergency and to prevent any further immediate:

Emergency repair 1Exposure to a risk to your health  
Emergency repair 2Risk of loss of or damage to the property
Emergency repair 3A risk that the building will be uninhabitable, in each case arising from the relevant incident.  

You can still make a claim on your insurance but!

While insurance and services providers are experiencing a high number of calls at the moment, they will still be working hard to get to you as quickly and as safely as possible if you need to make a claim.  If you need to book an engineer from your home emergency insurance company, but you or someone in your household is self-isolating it is worth telling them.

The same applies to any handy repairs you might need around the house from an outsider.

If you tell either that someone in your house is self-isolating, they can ensure they’re taking all the necessary measures to keep you and their engineers as safe as possible.

The measures either will have a place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus will include all or some of the following:

  • Engineers should have a larger supply of anti-bacterial gel and wipes on their vans as well as in-built washing facilities and will wash their hands before entering your home.
  • Engineers should no longer ask you to sign their tablet, instead, they will ask for confirmation from you that the job is done and then with your permission, sign on your behalf.
  • If you need to sign a disclaimer then our engineer should provide you with a paper version for you to sign which will be photographed and added to your digital job notes.
  • Our engineers should ask you to remain 7ft or 2 metres away from their work area to minimise contact.

Some providers may ensure help is prioritised to those who need it most, the vulnerable. They may be identified as someone who is/has:

  1. A health issue that requires the problem to be fixed quickly
  2. Over 70s in the winter with no heating or hot water
  3. Families with disabled children
  4. Disabled customers
  5. Families with children under 2 years of age

One local in the Greater Manchester area said reported that his insurance provider was in greater demand than usual as more people had been at home in recent and, therefore, more willing to sort out issues around the home.

This anecdote may not be representative for different parts of the country.

The takeaway is that while you are still able to report non-urgent repairs, engineers may not be able to attend as quickly compared to emergencies until our normal services have been resumed, and government guidelines tell us it is safe to do so. This looks increasingly likely to be June or July 2020.

Relatedly, if you’re one of the many of tenants who have decided to move in recent weeks, obligations when it comes to repairs for landlords have not changed. Although routine inspections should be delayed until the stay-at-home measures have been lifted, urgent health and safety issues that affect a tenant’s ability to live safely in their home should be fixed, and landlords and contractors can continue to visit properties in order to assess and fix these issues.

Urgent health and safety issues include (but are not limited to):

  • Problems with the fabric of a building, for example, the roof is leaking
  • Problems with the boiler, leaving tenants without heating or hot water
  • Plumbing issues, which means tenants don’t have washing or toilet facilities 
  • Problems with white goods, such as a broken fridge or washing machine, which means tenants are unable to wash clothes or store food safely 
  • Security-critical problems, such as a broken window or external door 
  • Equipment a disabled person relies on that requires installation or repair

Tenants should inform landlords as soon as they can if they encounter any issues with the condition of the property. And the government is encouraging the use of video technology to reduce the need for in-person inspections of property issues during this time of physical distancing.

As the situation evolves, repair providers will likely follow the latest Government advice.