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A guide to unoccupied home insurance

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By Esther Shaw1 day agoI

f you plan on leaving your home for an extended period of time – to go travelling, say, or while you wait for it to sell – you will want the peace of mind of knowing it’s protected.

But while you may have home insurance in place, policies typically won’t cover you if your property is going to be vacant for a lengthy stint.

With this in mind, you may want to consider ‘unoccupied home insurance’ instead. This covers your property against damage and burglary when there’s nobody living there.

Why do I need unoccupied home insurance?

With standard home policies, insurers will usually provide cover only if the policyholder can guarantee that a property will not remain empty for more than 30 or 60 days.

If you do leave the property vacant for longer than the stipulated number of days, this will void your cover. So if anything happens, this means you won’t be covered. (Similarly, if you have home emergency cover, this is also likely to become void if you leave your home unoccupied for a long period of time.)

Scenarios where you may need cover

There are a number of reasons why your home may be temporarily unoccupied. These include:

  • Travelling for a lengthy period of time – for work or pleasure
  • Visiting family abroad
  • Having to move out of your home while you have building work carried out
  • Not being able to live in your home because you’ve been taken into hospital or long-term care
  • You are selling the property but have already moved into a new home 
  • You’ve just bought the property but don’t plan on moving in just yet
  • You’ve recently inherited the home
  • Waiting for a new tenant to move in

Why is an unoccupied property an issue?

Insurers view premises which are left empty for lengthy periods of time as being at a greater risk of structural damage caused by events such as burst pipes. With no-one there to spot issues and get them sorted, minor issues can quickly escalate.

Vacant premises are also more attractive to burglars, and more likely to get broken into.

Given that a standard home policy won’t offer the cover you need, this is where unoccupied home insurance comes into play. This type of policy is likely to be more pricey than regular home insurance (given the increased risks involved with a property being vacant), but it will give the cover – and peace of mind – you need.

What features are included in unoccupied home insurance? 

Typically it provides high levels of cover for a range of events, including:

  • Storm damage
  • Flood damage
  • Fire damage
  • Escape of oil
  • Escape of water
  • Burst pipes
  • Theft – or attempted theft
  • Vandalism
  • Legal expenses – if, say, you need to deal with trespassers or get squatters removed
  • Public liability insurance – if, say, a roof tile comes loose from your property and shatters a neighbour’s car window, or a tree from your garden falls and damage a neighbour’s property

Where can I buy unoccupied home insurance?

If you plan on being away from your home for a while and are looking to buy unoccupied home cover, the best way to see how different deals stack up is by going online and using a price comparison service. So what should you expect?

Generally speaking, policies last for three, six, nine or 12 months. You will need to provide information, such as the value of the property, where it is located, how well-maintained it is, what security measures in place, why it’s going to be empty – and how long for.

Having done this, you will be presented with a list of quotes from different insurers. The various factors listed above could all impact on the price you get quoted.  Equally, the higher the level of cover you opt for, the more pricey the policy is likely to be.

Read policy documents carefully

Before signing up to a policy, make sure you read the Ts and Cs and understand exactly what level of cover you are getting, and which features are – and aren’t – included.

Remember to check the level of the excess. This is the amount you have to pay if you want to make a claim.  Also try and check out customer reviews to ensure the firm offers a decent level of customer service.

Tempting as it may be, don’t automatically opt for the cheapest policy. Go for the policy that offers the right features and level of cover for your needs – at the right price.

Watch out for exclusions

When comparing policies, be aware of exclusions. With unoccupied home insurance, certain situations may not be covered.about:blankhttps://89749a4fb8a821c43ab3d452b4a33549.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlabout:blank✕

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For example, burglary through unforced entry is unlikely to be covered. This is where a burglar is able to get access to your home because you left a door or window unlocked.

Policies are also unlikely to cover damage that occurs during major renovations, such as structural work on the property.Top ArticlesEuro 2020: England set for Wembley fixture boost for potential final runThirty-nine Post Office workers wrongly accused of theft due to IT blip have had convictions overturnedRamadan recipes: Syrian chef Imad Alarnab’s Burghul bl jajREAD MOREPablo Fornals: Pressure not on West Ham in top-four raceFrom Audrey Hepburn to Gwyneth Paltrow, the best Oscars dresses of all timeLondon’s leafiest boroughs revealed as Earth Day study shows how much of the capital is covered in treesRamadan recipes: Syrian chef Imad Alarnab’s Burghulbl jajSKIP ADRamadan recipes: Syrian chef Imad Alarnab’s Burghul bl jaj

The same applies to damage caused by contractors – though contractors should have their own cover in place.

To find out about exclusions, be sure to read the small print. If in doubt, check with the insurer.

Review your cover

When your unoccupied home insurance policy has expired, don’t automatically renew with the same insurer. You may be able to find a better deal elsewhere – so be prepared to shop around again.

The same applies to your standard home and contents policies too. In order to keep costs down, it’s important to shop around at renewal time.

Tips when leaving your home empty

A large proportion of insurance claims on unoccupied homes come from burst pipes, so it’s worth taking a few precautions when leaving your house vacant. Drain the system completely before you go away for example or, winter, leave the heating on a low setting.

As empty homes are more vulnerable to theft, take steps to make your property more secure:

  • Get a burglar alarm fitted
  • Make sure all doors and windows are fitted with approved high-quality locks
  • Install a timer so the lights come on and go off
  • Get a neighbour to open and close the curtains
  • Remove tell-tale signs that the property isn’t lived in by asking a neighbour to collect mail. Alternatively, get post redirected

Can I get unoccupied home cover as a landlord?

If you’re a landlord, you might want to consider unoccupied home insurance, but you could also look into getting dedicated landlord insurance instead. This is specifically designed for rental properties, and will usually permit a home to remain empty for a few months between tenants.