James Walker: What to do when the boiler won’t play ball

First check the thermostat, it may need a new battery
First check the thermostat, it may need a new battery
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Last weekend I gave in and turned the heating on. I admit it, I was in total denial about the end of summer. I wanted to believe tropical Britain was here to stay. The moths could have the winter coats.

As a matter of fact, I set up Resolver after a spectacular fail from my old boiler insurance provider resulted in six months of an increasingly bonkers complaints process. But I still eye my boiler suspiciously – it’s more of a diva than Mariah Carey. So what to do 
if your boiler is playing up and you need to make a claim?

First things first, check the thermostat. It sounds ridiculous but loads of boiler problems start with the thermostat when the battery runs out. The display might look like it’s not communicating with the boiler but a quick battery change could solve the problem and save you an expensive call-out.

Do a few basic checks, like turning the dials and thermostat down, pressing “boost” and seeing if it kicks into life. Repressurising the boiler can be a bit nerve-wracking if you’re not technically minded, but it can save you call-out fees.

Can’t find the boiler guide? You’re not alone. You can find most guides online – and there are loads of YouTube guides to basic problems too. Don’t get too ambitious though.

If you need to make a claim on a boiler cover policy, check to see what you’re covered for. Most have 24-hour call-out terms and a long list of things covering your rights and timescales on repairs and replacements.

If you’ve got blocked or leaking pipes, check to see whether they are on your property (claim through your insurer) or outside it (usually the water company needs to sort this out). Confirming access points can save a lot of hassle should you ever need to make a claim.

If you don’t have boiler cover, is it worth taking out insurance? With average boiler call-outs costing around £400, it certainly can be. These policies vary hugely, so it’s really important to find out exactly what’s covered before you sign up. Some policies only cover the boiler, while others cover the central heating and items that run off it too. You can also take out home emergency cover. This is designed to cover a range of problems, but most commonly burst or blocked pipes and boiler breakdowns – though some cover everything from vermin infestations to home security.

If you’re thinking about taking out boiler or home emergency cover, before you do anything, check to see what your existing home insurance covers. You might find you don’t need it. If you opt for home emergency cover, I’d suggest speaking to the insurer about your property before signing up.

Not all boiler contracts are insurance products – which matters, because if there’s a dispute, you can’t go to the Financial Ombudsman if it’s a service contract or other agreement. However, the ombudsman and I both apply the “duck test” to these contracts. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. So the same goes for a contract that looks like an insurance policy. Put a complaint in regardless if something goes wrong. The ombudsman might be able to help.

Don’t forget, if you have a problem with a boiler, no matter what kind of policy you have, don’t let it drag on for months – get in touch.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk