The key facts of unoccupied property insurance

Posted: 4th Jun 2014

There may be many reasons why your property sits unoccupied for a period of time.

That may not be an issue for your existing landlords insurance, unless the period concerned exceeds the specified number of consecutive days – which you might find to be somewhere in the region of 30 to 45.

If so, you may need to think about unoccupied property insurance:

1. the reason your existing policy may not cover extended periods without occupants, relates to the simple fact that insurance providers typically consider unoccupied properties to be at greater risk of a number of different problems than those with occupants in them;

2. many of these are relatively self-evident. For example, thieves and vandals might, by definition, find an unoccupied property far more attractive than those where they may run a higher risk of being disturbed as they go about their business;

3. other increased risks might be rather more subtle. One such example might be that properties might suffer damage from unnoticed problems that may have been spotted and corrected had someone be there to see them. Perhaps the classic illustration might be a leaking pipe;

4. if you do take out unoccupied property cover, your policy might oblige you to take certain steps to reduce the risks of problems arising in some of these areas;

5. for example, your policy may require you to switch off some or all of the utilities at the point of entry into the property. That might include things such as gas, water and electricity – though in some instances, the insurance provider might accept you needing to leave the central heating on at a lower level during periods of intense cold;

6. it is equally likely that your policy will oblige you to take all reasonable steps to avoid advertising the fact that your property is unoccupied. That might include things such as maintaining the exterior in tidy and lived-in condition and avoiding the accumulation of post in letter boxes etc.;

7. although it might well be considered to be common sense anyway, in order to qualify for this cover you may also need to commit to regularly visiting your property in order to correct any problems that you discover, thereby reducing the possibility that they will cause on-going and progressive damage. You might also need to keep a log of any such visits plus a list of any issues you have discovered and dealt with;

8. you may require this form of additional cover irrespective of the cause of your property sitting unoccupied. Divorce, probate, redecoration or delays in finding new tenants, might all result in your standard policy becoming invalid unless you take steps to cover those extended periods without occupants.

Most landlords would prefer that their properties are never unoccupied and certainly not for extended periods.

However, should such a thing happen to you, you may need to find out about unoccupied property cover sooner rather than later.