Legal expenses cover and home insurance

Legal fees can be incredibly expensive, whether someone's suing you or you're the one taking legal action. Legal expenses cover taken out with your home insurance can help cover the costs.

eve powell
Eve Powell
Updated 10 February 2023  | 3 min read
Reviewed by Jasmine Hembury

What’s legal expenses cover?

Legal expenses cover, also known as family legal protection, is a type of insurance you can buy alongside your home insurance.

It'll protect you against the costs of being sued, or of making a claim against someone.

It’s not compulsory when taking out home insurance, but it’s a standard feature with many policies, and available as an optional extra on others.

Key points

  • Having legal expenses cover isn’t compulsory but may be included as standard or as an added extra
  • Policies can take on the legal expenses involved in pursuing uninsured losses
  • For your insurer to take on a legal claim on your behalf, it'll need to be convinced that your case has a reasonable chance of success
  • Legal expenses won’t cover compensation and you should look out for exclusions

According to Defaqto, 25% of 311 buildings insurance policies included legal expenses cover as standard, and 58% listed it as an add-on.

The claim limits varied, but almost half (49%) of policies had a maximum indemnity limit of £50,000-£74,999.

For contents insurance, 24% of 337 policies listed included legal expenses as standard and it was available as an option for 57%.[1]

What’s covered by home insurance legal expenses?

Legal fees cover could include:

What’s not covered?

There are a number of common scenarios that aren’t covered by the legal expenses insurance on your home insurance policy:

  • Claims under a certain value - If the amount in dispute is under a certain value you won’t be covered - in other words, the claim must be worthwhile.
  • Claims involving your car - Legal issues involving a car you’re responsible for aren’t usually included in legal expenses cover - for example, if you drive your car into someone’s property. Though you might be covered on your car insurance.
  • Work ordered by the government or local authority - If there are any claims related to this type of work, your insurer won’t usually honour legal expenses cover.
  • Matrimonial disputes and libel cases - These will not be covered. The same applies to cases that started before the policy was taken out and disputes that can be covered by the Legal Aid Agency, such as a criminal trial.

Finally, you might have trouble making a claim if there’s a dispute over the purchase of your house - you must have bought it a certain number of days after taking out the insurance.

Do I already have legal expenses cover?

You may have legal expenses cover with your home insurance policy, as some include this cover as standard. Otherwise, you can usually buy it as an optional add-on.

Some bank accounts, credit cards, and life insurance policies also come with legal expenses insurance, so check if this is the case.

It’s also worth finding out whether anyone in your household has legal expenses insurance as this can sometimes cover everyone that lives in the property.

What are the alternatives?

While legal expenses cover is a cheap way to pay for legal expertise if you need it, there are other options that could help:

  • Legal aid - Depending on the severity of the case and your financial situation, legal aid can provide free or discounted legal support, but it won’t cover personal injury cases.
  • Trade unions - If you’re a member of a trade union, it can sometimes provide free legal help for a wide range of situations, not just work-related ones.
  • Pro bono legal advice - Some solicitors and volunteer barristers will donate their time and expertise to deserving cases for people who can’t afford to pay.
  • Law centres - You might be able to get free or cheaper legal advice from a solicitor in your local law centre, find your nearest one here.
  • Savings - Another option is to use any savings you have to pay for a solicitor. Just be aware that legal fees can soon reach eye-watering amounts, particularly if the case goes to court.

Before the event insurance vs. after the event insurance

Before the Event Insurance (BTE Insurance) is a type of legal expenses cover you can purchase prior to an event or incident. It's there to act as a security blanket against an unforeseen event that could lead to legal proceedings.

After the Event Insurance (ATE Insurance) is purchased following an accident or incident. It's usually purchased by a solicitor on behalf of a client in cases where no BTE Insurance cover exists.

Is home insurance legal cover worth it?

Legal expenses cover could be worthwhile if you needed legal assistance following a home accident or event.

On average, a UK solicitor costs around £210 an hour depending on experience[2]. Without cover, you’d be liable to pay for the cost of the legal fees yourself.

Ultimately, it’s down to you to decide whether legal expenses cover is worth it or not, as it really depends on whether you could afford the legal costs for the types of scenarios it covers.

Legal expenses and legal assistance

For your claim to be accepted, your insurer will want to be confident it’ll succeed in proving your case - you’re only likely to be offered legal assistance if there’s a strong chance the case can be won.

If your insurer handles your legal claim on your behalf, you’re obligated to accept a reasonable settlement, should this be offered.

If you disagree with your insurer's verdict, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service to make a complaint.

Is legal expenses insurance the same as liability cover?

No, although both types of insurance help to cover legal costs, they work in different ways:

Legal expenses cover

This type of insurance is designed to cover the cost of legal fees in case you need to take legal action or defend a claim. But it won’t usually cover compensation.

The claim limits for legal expense cover are typically between £50,000 and £100,000.[1]

Liability cover

Liability insurance comes as standard with most home insurance policies. It provides financial protection in case someone sues you for accidental injury or damage that was caused by your property.

It covers the legal costs and compensation you may be required to pay. Because the insurance can pay out for compensation, the cover limits can be millions of pounds.

Will I pay an excess to use my cover?

This will partly depend on your home insurance policy - with some legal expenses cover you won’t need to pay an excess.

According to Defaqto, 216 out of 309 buildings insurance policies don’t have an excess for legal expenses claims. And similarly, it found that for 230 out of 335 contents insurance policies, you won’t need to pay an excess if you make a claim.[1]

If you do need to pay an excess for your legal expenses cover, this will usually be from around £50 to £100, depending on the policy.[1]

Where can I find home insurance with cover for legal expenses?

We’ll help you compare a range of home insurance policies that come with legal expenses cover, plus you can compare a host of other product features too.

Comparing home insurance from a range of providers is the best way for you to get the right cover at the right price.

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Buy home insurance with us and we’ll refund your excess if you make a claim. Excludes accidental loss and damage claims^

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^Up to £250 refunded after claim settled. Excludes accidental loss or damage claims. Full T&Cs apply.

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[1]Last checked 9 December 2022

[2] How much does a solicitor cost? Unbiased. Retrieved 13-02-2022.