Winter Home Emergencies Cost The Uninsured £15 Billion

16 December 2011

With the wintery weather upon us, it’s time to get prepared; Met Office figures show that December 2010 was the coldest December in the UK since 1910 and the winter before was the coldest since 1978(1). In preparation for this year’s December freeze, Sainsbury’s Home Insurance is urging people to embark on some last minute winter preparations if they’ve haven’t already done so.

New research(1) from Sainsbury’s Home Insurance reveals that one in three homeowners (36%) has suffered weather-related home emergencies over the past two years costing those without sufficient insurance over £15 billion.  Over 6 million adults (13%) have suffered from a broken boiler in that time and one in 10 (9%) has had a leaking roof. Some 8% of Britons have suffered from frozen pipes and 6% from leaking radiators.

Despite this, when surveyed in mid November, over 15 million Brits (33%) admitted to not yet having made any winter preparations to their homes. Three quarters of homeowners (74%) have not had a boiler check or service in advance of winter. Over the last two years those without insurance for this forked out an average of £968 for boiler breakdowns.

Just 10% have checked their roof or the exterior of their building and carried out any necessary repairs, despite an average repair bill of £1,268 for those who have had a leaking roof.  Only 9% have insulated exposed pipes or water tanks to prevent them from freezing and bursting this winter.
Only 4% of Britons have checked that they have emergency call out cover for a tradesman, should they need it.

Ben Tyte, Head of Sainsbury’s Home Insurance, said: “With icy conditions affecting much of the country, we are concerned that one in three households has made no preparations for winter. Now is the time to start winter-proofing your home to do all you can to try and eliminate the risk of damage which could be costly and hugely inconvenient for you and your family.

“We are encouraging all householders to make any repairs now, to both inside and outside of their home, such as having the boiler serviced, checking for roof leaks, and ensuring loft insulation is in place.”

Ben added: “When an emergency happens, you need access to a good tradesman at short notice, yet just 4% of Brits have checked to see if their home insurance policy includes emergency call out cover for a tradesman should they need it. This cover can be invaluable as it can ensure a qualified person is put on the job immediately to make your home safe and secure, often avoiding further damage.”

The supermarket bank’s research(2) also reaffirmed the chaos most of us experienced last winter; over the last two years one in five (19%) people have been trapped in their homes. The findings reveal that four in 10 people (39%) have had difficulty getting their vehicle out of their road due to snow and ice, including 44% of those aged 65 or over and 45% of women.

In the past two years, due to winter weather, one in four people (26%) have been stranded and unable to get to the shops and 22% have been unable to get to work. One in five (20%) have had their homes cut off from friends and family, 8% have been unable to get their children to school, and 4% have had difficulty getting a tradesperson to their home to fix something.

Interestingly with this in mind, only 14% of people have stocked up on tinned and long-life food and the same small percentage have stocked up on salt-grit to make the access to their home safe in the event of ice.

Those living in Scotland and the North East of England are most affected by the bad conditions, with nearly half (46% in Scotland, 49% in the North East) finding it difficult to get their vehicle out of their road at some point in the past two years. Scots have also suffered the most home emergencies, with 48% claiming to have suffered damage caused by winter weather. Despite this nearly a third (28%) of those in Scotland admit to not making basic home preparations for winter this year.

Type of home emergency Number of Britons who have experienced this in the last 2 years Average cost of repairs (excluding those covered by insurance) Total cost of repairs (not covered by insurance)
Broken Boiler 6.39 million (13%)
£968 £3,910,720,000
Leaking Roof 4.16 million (9%)
£1,268 £4,567,336,000
Frozen Pipes 3.69 million (8 %)
£150 £408,300,000
Damaged Tiles 3.19 million (7%)
£407 £1,129,832,000
Leaking radiator 2.82 million (6%)
£1,157 £2,259,621,000
Burst Pipes 2.03 million (4%)
£538 £807,000,000
Wind damage to property 1.98 million (4%)
£383 £667,952,000
Snow or ice damage to property 1.85 million (4%)
£796 £1,286,336,000
Storm damage to property 1.01 million (2%)
£329 £285,243,000

Sainsbury’s Home Insurance urges people to check their home insurance covers emergencies, particularly more vulnerable people.

Winter Weather tips from Sainsbury’s Finance:
• Make sure you have a good level of buildings and contents cover
• Know where your main stopcock is and make sure you can turn it off and on. If you have a water meter, the ‘off’ switch is on the meter, which is probably outside the house
• If you are away for a few days, leave the heating on a low setting as it’s advisable to maintain an air temperature of at least 10oC (50 oF)
• Make sure your boiler has had its annual service
• Ensure your pipes are insulated, especially if they occupy attic spaces, which are notoriously cold
• If you suspect a pipe may have cracked, ensure you turn the water off and call your insurer right away
• Make sure you have the telephone number for your home insurance company because many like Sainsbury’s Finance offer a 24-hour emergency advice helpline which can arrange for emergency / temporary repairs

The Sainsbury’s Home Insurance home emergency advice helpline team offer to deal with a home emergency by choosing a qualified person to come to your home and carry out any repairs that are necessary. If you don’t have full Home Emergency Cover in place you will be charged for the repairs arranged by the helpline.

For more information on Sainsbury’s Home Insurance call 0800 731 7978 or visit


For further information, please contact:
Charlotte Pascal / Tom Wilson
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
020 7282 1021 / 2842

Notes to editors:
(1) Met Office, 1st November 2011
(2) ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 2,004 adults aged 18+ online between 11th and 13th November 2011. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.  ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information at
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