If you own a property that will be empty for more than 30 days, there’s a good chance you’ll need unoccupied property insurance. Without it, you may not be covered for risks like theft, damage, or vandalism. Here, we explore who might need unoccupied home insurance and why.
- What is unoccupied house insurance?
- Who needs unoccupied home insurance?
- What insurance do I need for an unoccupied house?
- Does vacant property insurance have exclusions?
- How much does vacant property insurance cost?
- Do I need to insure an empty property?
These are specialist policies that cover empty houses. They’re typically very flexible and can provide short-term and long-term insurance depending on how long a property is empty and why. The policy will cover the building and your liabilities as the property owner and can also cover contents if it’s required.
Do I need insurance for a vacant home if I have standard home insurance already?
As a general rule, standard home insurance won’t cover properties that are empty for a significant length of time. So, after a set period of unoccupancy (usually between 30 and 90 days), cover is typically restricted and no longer covers things like theft, escape of water, malicious/accidental damage and sometimes subsidence. Plus, during the unoccupancy even a standard policy might have additional requirements (e.g. turning off water, regularly visiting the property).
It’s worth knowing that the limit set will be for consecutive days, not total days. For example, if the limit was 60 days, the property would need to be empty for 61 days in a row for home insurance to be invalidated. There will also be unoccupancy limits under landlord and holiday home insurance, but these are normally more flexible as the nature of the property use means it will be vacant more often. Limits will vary depending on the insurer.
We strongly recommend you speak with your broker (or insurer if you bought direct) to notify them of the unoccupancy as soon as possible. They should inform you of any conditions and advise on cover options going forward.
Unoccupied home insurance is designed for anyone who owns a vacant property. Policies can be tailored to suit you depending on the reasons why the property is empty in the first place, for example:
Holiday home or second-home owners
If you have a second home that’s empty for months at a time, vacant property insurance can give you peace of mind.
If you rent the property out, it’s worth considering holiday let insurance that includes cover for unoccupied properties. This would provide cover for the periods between each rental. Remember to let the insurer know whether the property is used for short-term or long-term lets, as there are different risks. For example, short-term holiday lets will mean more visitors, which can increase the risk of damage.
Homeowners carrying out renovations
If you’re moving out while renovations are taking place, it’s important to make this clear to the insurer. Not all policies cover property renovations on an empty house because the risk of something going wrong is often considered too great. Depending on the work being done, you may need renovation insurance instead. It’s also recommended that your builder has their own contractors all risks / liability insurance.
Buyers who are not ready to move into their new home
If you’re looking at temporary home insurance between exchange and completion, or you’re not planning on moving into the property for more than 30 days after completion, you may need unoccupied house insurance. For example, this could apply if you’re moving to another part of the country but want the children to finish the term at their current school.
Homeowners on holiday or working away
You can arrange empty home insurance tailored to how long you’ll be away.
If you’re working away for at least a year, bear in mind that 12 months is usually the maximum policy term you can buy upfront. However, you should be able to renew it without any problem if you need to.
Instead of building insurance for landlords, you may need unoccupied property insurance to cover extended periods between tenants.
Waiting for probate
If you’ve inherited property, you may need to wait for probate before selling or moving in.
Unfortunately, probate can take months and even years, depending on how tricky someone’s estate is. If you need vacant home insurance for this reason, let your insurer know so they can accommodate any change in circumstances.
Policies vary by insurer, and many can be tailored to suit your circumstances, so it’s always worth discussing your needs before taking out a policy. Generally speaking, unoccupied house insurance will cover:
- property damage caused by fire, flood, storms, subsidence and escape of water;
- contents for properties that are furnished;
- theft and vandalism;
- property owners’ liability covers legal costs if someone hurts themselves on your property.
Almost all insurance policies have exclusions, and these policies are no different. While insurers set their own terms and conditions, you can expect unforced entry not to be covered. For example, if you were burgled and entry was gained through an unlocked door or open window, your insurer is unlikely to compensate you.
Don’t forget that not all unoccupied property insurance policies will cover renovation or building work. If this is something you need, be sure to check what the policy says about this.
Does unoccupied home insurance have conditions?
It’s fairly normal for unoccupied home insurance to have conditions. If you don’t meet the conditions, your insurer can refuse to pay out, leaving you to face costs yourself. Conditions can vary across insurers, but common ones include:
- having the property checked regularly;
- keeping heating on at a low temperature or draining the system over winter;
- securing the empty house using specific types of locks on doors and windows.
The cost will depend on a number of factors, including:
- how long the property has been and will be empty for;
- where the property is located;
- the property’s construction type;
- whether you need cover for contents;
- how secure the property is.
Property insurance isn’t required by law, although most mortgage lenders will insist you have buildings cover.
So, while there’s no legal obligation to insure an empty property, you could be responsible for repair costs if you don’t have a policy.
Unoccupied house insurance is a safety net that can help protect your investment and you from financial loss. For more information, you can speak to a member of our team at 01603 649650.