The case for unoccupied buildings insurance

Posted: 2nd Jun 2014

Unoccupied buildings insurance may be an invaluable part of your landlord insurance portfolio.

This may come as a bit of a surprise to you. You may think, for example, that your buy to let property is more at risk when you have tenants living there. After all, why else would you have bought buy to let house insurance?

Tenants are only part of the story though, because when your property is empty it may be more vulnerable to different types of risk.

30 Days

From an insurance point of view, an unoccupied property is typically one that has no-one living in it for a period of 30-45 consecutive days or more.

While this is not an ideal situation for any landlord, it could come about for a number of reasons, some planned and some unplanned including:

  • difficulties in finding new tenants to take over the property or delays in them moving in;
  • major refurbishment being carried out;
  • renovations or repairs that need to be carried out on a empty property and which may be overrunning.

There may be people coming and going about the property on most days but if no one is living there then it will generally need unoccupied buildings insurance (also known as empty property cover or vacant property insurance).

Tell tale signs and what you can do

For vandals and thieves, unoccupied property may be an especially attractive proposition. Overgrown gardens, unlit windows and building materials lying around, are all good indicators of an unoccupied property – and your need for unoccupied buildings insurance.

Trying to keep your buy to let property looking lived in may help as a deterrent in many cases. This could entail keeping the garden tidy and the grass cut or arranging for lights to come on at night.

Even the most unreliable of tenants may probably intervene if there was a problem with your house. So you would catch that small leak or missing slate early before they got worse and caused possibly significant damage to the fabric of your property.

Making regular inspections of your property and carrying out necessary repairs may help prevent a minor problem turning into a major and expensive disaster. You may find in any case that regular visits to your unoccupied property may be obligatory as part of your empty property insurance.

Not just landlords

It may be interesting to note that unoccupied buildings insurance may not just be an issue for landlords. If you are an owner-occupier your home may obviously face the same kind of risks.

It could be empty:

  • as a result of you being on a long term assignment abroad;
  • while under probate;
  • awaiting the outcome of divorce proceedings;
  • while you are carrying out renovations.

Worth the money

There’s no argument that as a landlord times can be tight and it may be tempting to try and do without additional unoccupied buildings insurance. However, making a false claim on your standard landlords’ insurance when your property is in fact unoccupied may result in the claim being rejected and jeopardize the chance of you getting insurance in future.