There are a daunting catalogue of risks faced by empty property, compared to that which is occupied on a more or less permanent basis.
The list typically includes loss or damage to the property resulting from:
- fire and arson;
- theft and vandalism;
- other trespassers, intruders and Travellers;
- use for illegal parties, raves or trading;
- fly tipping;
- flooding caused by ingress of water or burst water pipes; and
- losses arising from property owners’ liability claims.
To take just one of these headings in a little more detail, one company warns that an estimated 60 fires a day start in or alongside vacant or abandoned buildings as a result of the anti-social behaviour they may encourage, the fires lit by vagrants hoping to keep themselves warm, arsonists at work, or because of faulty electrical circuitry in the empty property.
Reasons for your property standing empty and unoccupied
Yet there are any number of reasons why you may need to vacate your property and leave it unoccupied for more than a month or so.
You might be taking an extended holiday, for example, or working away from home for a period; you might be renovating the property, which remains unsuitable for you or tenants to live in during the course of building works; you might be moving home and have already taken up residence in your new house whilst the former home remains on the market for sale; or you may have an interest in a property which is subject to probate, pending decisions on its eventual disposal.
Keeping your empty property safe
These are times when you might want to give special consideration to the need for the type of unoccupied property insurance, described in greater detail in our free guide on the subject.
The need arises because the standard home building and contents insurance – or landlord insurance, if it is let property – is likely to provide inadequate protection once the premises have been unoccupied for longer than 45 to 60 consecutive days.
Although the exact period varies from one insurer to another, in practically every instance insurance cover becomes restricted – or is allowed to lapse entirely – once the property has been unoccupied for longer than a month or so. In the place of your standard home or landlord insurance, therefore, specialist unoccupied property insurance is necessary in order to keep the house safe.
Even with the safety of adequate unoccupied property insurance, however, you still have a responsibility for mitigating the risk of loss or damage.
- Included in the reasonable – and essentially common sense – precautions to take might be;
- making sure that someone visits the property for a brief inspection regularly and logs these visits;
- ensuring that quality locks and bolts are not only fitted to doors and windows – but are also properly used and secured;
- cancelling any scheduled deliveries and making arrangements for anything else delivered to the address is taken indoors by a neighbour, friend or relative;
- considering asking a neighbour to park their car on your driveway from time to time – helping to create the impression that someone may be at home;
- creating a similar impression by installing time-switches at various locations around your house, so that lights come on when it grows dark; and
- arranging for the garden to be maintained, by trimming hedge and cutting the grass.
These are just some of the safety precautions any insurer – including your unoccupied property insurance provided – might reasonably expect you to take to keep the home safe.