Unoccupied property insurance – the facts

Posted: 2nd Jun 2014

Unoccupied property insurance is a form of cover that is commonly associated with let property insurance – though, in fact, it may apply equally to owner-occupier properties.

An unoccupied property

Although it may not immediately seem obvious, an unoccupied property may be at rather more risk than one that is occupied.

That’s because there are a variety of things that may happen to it, that may be less likely if someone were living there.

Examples of the sorts of issues might include:

  • minor problems (e.g. leaking pipes) that deteriorate into major catastrophes simply because nobody is there to spot and quickly deal with them;
  • burglars typically like to avoid the risk of being disturbed, so unoccupied properties may be far more attractive to them than those that are occupied.

For all these reasons, the providers of buy to let buildings insurance (or owner-occupier home buildings and contents insurance) may not cover a property that stands unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days.

Reasons and explanations

Although it may be advisable to check your own individual policy for exact details, typically insurers will not take into account why your property is unoccupied.

It may be that you were unlucky and had an extended gap between lettings or perhaps your property was unoccupied while it was being converted and redecorated.

In essence, it won’t matter – the insurance company will simply typically see it as unoccupied and they may reject any claims for problems that arose while it was officially designated as an unoccupied property.

The good news is that insurance providers will typically be able to offer you something called unoccupied property insurance (or vacant property insurance). That will cover your property should it stand empty for more than 30 consecutive days.

Some providers may offer unoccupied property insurance cover providing certain conditions are met. They may include things such as your need to periodically visit and inspect the property and to keep a log of the dates and times that you did so.

If you think it is possible that your property may stand unoccupied for more than the 30 days mentioned above, it might be highly advisable to consider this sort of additional cover.

Owner-occupiers

It is worth noting that this 30-day rule may also apply to an ordinary owner-occupier property.

Therefore, if you are planning an extended holiday or business trip overseas, it might be prudent to consider whether or not the duration may affect the validity of your property insurance.

It is also worth taking note that an insurer may check the occupancy status of a property in the context of a claim. If your property was found to be unoccupied (i.e. for more than 30 consecutive days) then your claim may be rejected unless you have unoccupied property insurance cover.