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Tips on maintaining your empty property

There is 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;
  • squatting;
  • theft and vandalism;
  • other trespassers;
  • 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.

Above all, remember that your landlord insurance policy is no substitute for well-planned and regular maintenance. Loss or damage that occurs because of your neglect or failure to maintain the property is not covered by your insurance.

Reasons for your property standing empty and unoccupied

There are many reasons why your property may be 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;
  • renovating the property, which remains unsuitable for you or tenants to live in during building works;
  • 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 consider the need for the type of unoccupied property insurance, described in greater detail in our free guide on the subject.

The need for unoccupied property insurance 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 to keep the house safe.

Quick tips

There are a few basic things you might want to think about if your property is going to be empty for anything more than a relatively short period:

  1. make sure that your insurance remains valid. As we mentioned above, once your property has sat unoccupied for more than around 30-45 consecutive days (the exact number will typically be specified in your existing property insurance policy), your cover may become invalid;
  2. you might need an unoccupied property insurance quote to make sure you benefit from continuity of cover – specialist providers of unoccupied property insurance such as ourselves here at Cover4LetProperty will be able to provide additional details;
  3. think about security – many burglaries, attacks of vandalism and squatting episodes, are essentially opportunistic so, anything you can do to hide the fact that your property is sitting unoccupied from potentially prying eyes, might help keep it that bit safer. If there are internal building or redecoration works underway, try to avoid allowing builders to hang their signs so that they are visible from outside the property;
  4. good examples of how to help camouflage your property in that respect include making sure that there are no accumulations of post in letterboxes, putting lights on timer switches, regularly adjusting the position of curtains and blinds when visiting and making sure that garden areas are kept in a good and tidy condition;
  5. visit your property regularly to check for small problems that might become big ones through inaction because no one is in residence to notice them. Typically, this may also be a condition of any empty property insurance you arrange, too;
  6. shut off your water and gas at source and drain down the heating and water systems if you believe that the property is like to sit empty for some considerable time. A possible exception might arise where a freeze is forecast and, in that case, you may need to leave the central heating on an occasional use low thermostat level in order to avoid frost damage (check your policy terms and conditions for clarification);
  7. prevent any of the various forms of infestation from taking hold. One of the most useful things here is to ensure that absolutely no foodstuffs are left anywhere in your property. You might also wish to consider things such as sonic repellents or humane traps and the like. Remember, it can be extremely difficult to remove infestations once they become established;
  8. you might wish to position dehumidifiers and deodorizers at certain parts of your property to stop a damp and aged smell arising from a property that has stood unoccupied for some time.
  9. ensure that quality locks and bolts are not only fitted to doors and windows – but are also properly used and secured;
  10. cancel any scheduled deliveries and making arrangements for anything else delivered to the address is taken indoors by a neighbour, friend or relative;
  11. consider 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;
  12. avoid putting up signs anywhere confirming that you are away and advising people what to do in the interim.

A further word on insurance

This brief blog has not touched on other categories of risks arising with unoccupied properties, such as those associated with leaking pipes etc.

However, in terms of criminal intrusion and other potential forms of property damage, whatever steps you take, you may in a worst-case scenario need to fall back on your unoccupied property insurance.

Remember that some empty property insurance cover is rather more limited than that available with other policies. For example, some policies of this type might only offer what is called “FLEA” protection – standing for Fire, Lightning, Explosion and Aircraft.

You may find that type of cover is too limited for your peace of mind and selecting an appropriate policy is something that you may need specialist assistance with. Why not call us today on 01702 606 301 to find out more? We offer various levels of unoccupied property cover to meet your needs and your budget.

Further reading: Guide to Unoccupied Property.

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