Homes may be left unoccupied for any number of reasons and voids are not the only explanations for a normally let property to lie empty. Whatever the reasons, if no one is living in the home for longer than a month or so, either the owner-occupier or the landlord is likely to be looking for an unoccupied property insurance quote.
When is a property classed as unoccupied?
A standard home insurance or landlord insurance policy allows for periods when a property may be temporarily unoccupied – for example, when the tenant or owner goes on holiday, or for weekends away etc.
But once a property has stood empty for a number of consecutive days – typically between 30-45 days depending on the policy as this can vary – then you will need purpose designed unoccupied property insurance.
A property is classed as unoccupied even if it is fully furnished.
Reasons for the property being unoccupied
If you are the owner-occupier, your home might be unoccupied because:
- you are on an extended holiday away from home;
- your home is under extensive refurbishment or remodelling;
- you and your partner may be setting up home together and you may be in the process of selling one of your properties;
- your job takes you to a different part of the country – or even abroad – to work for longer than a month or so; or
- you might have an interest in a property that is subject to probate and remains empty until that legal process is complete.
If you are a landlord, you may have a longer than usual void – caused by a difficulty in finding tenants or because:
- the normally let property is being redecorated or refurbished; or
- sitting tenants are away for longer than a month or so, yet still decide to keep on the tenancy.
Why seek an unoccupied property insurance quote?
Statistics may suggest that unoccupied properties are more at risk from things such as leaking pipes or storm damage, simply because there is nobody present to notice and rectify the problem before it becomes serious.
Unoccupied properties may also prove to be far more attractive to thieves and vandals, as their chances of being disturbed will be considerably reduced.
As the risks are higher, insurers typically require a specific cover to be put into place – unoccupied property insurance.
As we touched on above, typical home buildings and contents insurance for both landlords and owner-occupiers may contain clauses to the effect that portions of your cover (or the entire policy) may no longer apply if your property stands unoccupied for more than a specified amount of consecutive days. The restriction – and the need for standalone unoccupied property insurance – is typically required because the risks that face an empty property are different from those that potentially exist when the property is inhabited.
If the property is unoccupied for reasons beyond your control
If your home or buy to let property becomes empty for reasons beyond your control, it makes no difference to your likely need for unoccupied property insurance. Your insurers are concerned that the property is unoccupied and not the reasons why.
If building works, refurbishment or a redecoration project has taken longer than envisaged and the home continues to be unoccupied or if new tenants delay the date on which they plan to move in that might still result in your need to seek an unoccupied property insurance quote.
Can I get short-term empty property insurance?
Yes, you can get flexible unoccupied property insurance. For example, we offer short-term unoccupied property insurance for a period of three, six and twelve months. We also offer three levels of cover, so you can choose the protection must suited to your needs.
Your continuing responsibilities
As with any general insurance policy, if you have arranged unoccupied property insurance, you still have a duty to mitigate the risks of loss or damage. Your insurer has the right to expect your exercise of that caution and may reject any subsequent claim – or consider your failure to do so a cause of contributory negligence.
Whatever the reason for your property being unoccupied, you may wish to be aware of the terms and conditions attaching to your unoccupied property insurance quote. These may require, for example:
- that you arrange to have your property inspected regularly and carry out ongoing maintenance, as well as attending promptly to necessary repairs;
- you may also be required to keep a log of these visits;
- you might also want to ensure that a light or two is on a timer to come on in the evenings and that external garden and other areas are kept in tidy and well-maintained condition (in fact, some policies may require it); and
- from a landlord’s point of view, keeping the garden tidy and free from rubbish and litter may not only make your property look more attractive to potential tenants, but it may also help to make the property looked lived in and so deter thieves and vandals.
Steps to take
If you expect your home or let property to be left unoccupied for longer than a consecutive period of 30 to 45 days, you might want to contact your insurance provider for your home insurance or landlord’s insurance to discuss the level of cover to expect.
You are likely to be advised to arrange specialist, standalone unoccupied property insurance.
If you are uncertain about the status of your property when you leave it empty or have any questions or concerns about unoccupied property insurance, here at Cover4LetProperty we aim to help, advise and steer you in the direction of suitable cover.