Quick guide to unoccupied property insurance

Posted: 5th Feb 2017

If you own property – whether as an owner occupier, a landlord or as an investment in commercial premises – it faces a range of particular risks and perils if it needs to be left empty and unoccupied for longer than a month or so.

The risks

Property managers and security firms recognise the additional risks to which any building is exposed once it has been left empty.

In September of 2016, property managers VPS discussed the measurement of a building’s exposure to risks and noted at least two principal causes:

  • when there is no one on the premises – either at home or in a commercial building – an otherwise routine need for repair or maintenance might develop into a more serious and costlier incident if left unnoticed; and
  • empty buildings attract more than their fair share of attention from thieves, vandals, squatters and arsonists – VPS cited figures to suggest that, in the UK, more than 60 fires a day are reported in or near to empty properties.

Unoccupied property, in other words, face a higher scale of risk than that which is in more or less continuous use.

Response from insurers

Your unoccupied property is exposed to greater risk, but the likely response of your regular insurers is hardly going to make matters any better.

Typically, any regular property insurance makes specific provision for exclusions and restrictions on the extent of cover offered – or even treats the policy as having lapsed altogether – once the building has been empty for a period of between 30 and 45 consecutive days (the exact period varying from one insurer to another).

In those circumstances protection of the building and its contents needs to be restored through specialist unoccupied property insurance – for which we offer an online quotation service backed by a telephone service.

What does it cover?

As with various other forms of property insurance, we will tailor the cover provided by unoccupied property insurance to suit your individual needs and requirements.

Relatively basic cover may be all that is needed for a simple commercial unit containing very little in the way of contents; whilst, if it is your own home that is going to be left empty and unoccupied, you might choose to restore a comprehensive level of cover for both the building and its contents.

Your decision is likely to be based on the type of building that is going to be unoccupied, the use to which it is normally put and the value of any contents within it. Your specialist broker may be able to help you with valuations such as this.

Sometimes, you may have a clear schedule in mind for the eventual re-occupation of your empty property; at other times, it may be an indefinite period. Fortunately, unoccupied property insurance is sufficiently flexible to allow extensions of the period of cover.

A further feature of this specialist form of insurance is that you may also be able to buy it as short-term cover for periods of less than the usual 12 months. This too, of course, enhances the flexibility of unoccupied property insurance to meet your specific needs and circumstances.

Further reading: Guide to unoccupied property