Homeowners and landlords – do you need buildings insurance for an empty property?

Posted: 6th Jun 2016

From a landlord’s perspective an empty property is a bit of a headache. And while buildings insurance for an empty property may not solve this headache you will at least have some peace of mind that your investment is protected against unexpected events.

And even if you aren’t a landlord, if your home is unoccupied for a period of time due to:

  • you working away on business;
  • you living away from your home while it is being renovated;
  • you having a probate property; or
  • similar;

then empty property insurance may again give invaluable peace of mind.

In fact, if you have a mortgage on your property, whether you are a landlord or owner-occupier, you may legally be obliged to have adequate buildings insurance on your property.

Check out our short video: Do I need a specialist unoccupied property insurance policy?

What does “empty” mean?

Buildings insurance for empty property typically becomes necessary when your property becomes officially unoccupied in the eyes of your insurer. This may be a question of degree. For example, if you pop out for a pint of milk, your house may be empty, but an insurer may not class that as being “unoccupied.” Likewise, having a two week holiday is unlikely to meet their definition.

Instead, insurers may vary in their definitions of when a property becomes “empty,” but 30 consecutive days of being vacant may typically make a property “unoccupied.”

At this point, your standard buildings insurance may offer only several restricted cover – or may even lapse – leaving your property vulnerable.

Why vacant properties need different cover

Whether it is a buy to let property or your own home, empty properties may be particularly at risk from damage. For example, with no one there to notice on the same day that damage is being caused by a small leak that, left unchecked, brings the ceiling down, such damage cannot be dealt with as quickly as it might have been.

Another issue to consider is that you may not be the only person who has noticed that the property is empty. Thieves, vandals and arsonists may have identified the property as a target, and be waiting to make their attack.

What does unoccupied property contents cover?

You may be able to add contents cover on to some buildings insurance for an empty property, so do check with your insurer. Or it can be bought as a standalone policy.

Finally, do note that failure to notify your insurance provider that your property is empty could render your existing landlord insurance or owner-occupier buildings and contents insurance policy invalid. This means that in the event of claim, it will typically not be successful.