Understanding cheap unoccupied property insurance

Posted: 2nd Jun 2014

Nobody likes the thought of needing to buy additional insurance. Yet cheap unoccupied property insurance might be something that is well worth taking seriously.

Here’s why:

  • whether you are an owner-occupier or a landlord, your buildings and contents insurance will typically only cover your property if it is defined, in insurance terms, as being occupied;
  • if a property is empty for more than 30 consecutive days, then your insurer will typically define it as being ‘unoccupied’ and any existing home buildings and contents insurance (either owner-occupier or landlord’s insurance) to be invalid;
  • insurers may regard a property that is unoccupied to be at higher risk from things such as cumulative damage arising from a leaking pipe or broken window. There may also be additional risks from things such as burglary and vandalism, as the perpetrators often have techniques they use to spot an unoccupied property (which reduces the chances of them being disturbed while engaged in their criminal activities);
  • properties may slip into this designation more easily than you would think. Examples might include unexpected delays between lettings or renovation and conversion works overrunning etc;
  • there are insurers offering what they may call cheap unoccupied property insurance to provide a continuity of cover should your property slip into the unoccupied category;
  • to be clear on definitions, an unoccupied property is one that is, as the name suggests, simply unoccupied – it does not have to be empty in the sense of its being unfurnished. It is perfectly possible for a fully furnished and well-equipped property to meet the definition of being unoccupied.
  • not all cheap unoccupied property insurance is identical and there may be significant variations between the products of various insurers. For example, some unoccupied property insurance may require that you periodically inspect the unoccupied property and keep a log that you have done so. Some cover of this type may also insist that certain anti-intruder measures are adopted including the maintenance of external features such as gardens and the fitting of time switches to lights etc;
  • it may also be worth noting that typically insurers will not consider any justification for a property being unoccupied. In other words if you do not have unoccupied property insurance cover and your property passes the 30 days unintentionally (e.g. if you are delayed letting your property because of family troubles) then your insurance may still become invalid.

Given the sums that you have invested in your property, taking chances in the area of unoccupied property insurance might not be advisable.

Of course, what is cheap for one person may not be cheap for you and you may prefer to adopt an approach that concentrates on the depth of cover provided rather than exclusively on finding cheap unoccupied property insurance.