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Unoccupied house insurance

Going on an extended trip or waiting to sell your old home? Don’t waste time worrying about the ins and outs of unoccupied house insurance – we’ve done the legwork for you.

Here’s how leaving your house empty could affect your home insurance policy and premiums.

Compare the Market don’t currently compare unoccupied home insurance.

Going on an extended trip or waiting to sell your old home? Don’t waste time worrying about the ins and outs of unoccupied house insurance – we’ve done the legwork for you.

Here’s how leaving your house empty could affect your home insurance policy and premiums.

Compare the Market don’t currently compare unoccupied home insurance.

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
Last Updated
12 JANUARY 2024
5 min read
Share article

What is unoccupied home insurance?

Unoccupied home insurance covers your property if you need to leave it vacant for longer than your standard home insurance allows.

You’ll normally need to arrange unoccupied house insurance if your home will be empty for more than 30-60 days, but policies vary so check your terms to be sure. With insurance for an unoccupied property, you can leave your home empty for longer periods. 

Typically, you can find policies for three, six, nine or up to 12 months, and you can often extend the cover if needs be. If you leave your home empty for longer than your policy allows and you don’t arrange extra cover, your home insurance policy will be invalidated and you won’t be covered for any claim.

Unoccupied property insurance is likely to be more expensive than a standard home insurance policy because insurance providers see a vacant house as a bigger risk. There’s more chance of it being broken into or even squatted, and there’s also building maintenance to think about. If there’s a leak and no one’s there to notice and fix it, for example, the damage could be far worse than it needs to be.

When do I need unoccupied house insurance?

There are several situations when you may need unoccupied home insurance. You might need cover for an empty property if:

  • You’re a homeowner heading off on sabbatical to travel the world, or to work or volunteer abroad for a while
  • You’re a homeowner heading off on an extended holiday
  • You’ve recently bought a new house but you’re not quite ready to move in yet
  • You’ve moved in with a partner but haven’t yet sold or rented your old home
  • You have a second home or holiday home that you only use part of the year.
  • You’ve inherited a property and you haven’t decided what to do with it yet or you’re waiting for probate
  • You’re selling a property and you’ve already moved into your new home
  • You need long-term residential health care
  • You’re moving out while renovation work is underway.

If you’re a landlord and your property is going to be empty for a while between tenants, read our guide to unoccupied property insurance for landlords.  

What does unoccupied house insurance cover?

Empty property insurance could cover your property for damage caused by:

  • Fire 
  • Flooding 
  • Storms 
  • Theft or attempted theft 
  • Vandalism 
  • Water or oil, from burst pipes
  • Impact, from a car collision or a falling object.

It can also offer:

  • Legal expenses – if, for example, someone starts squatting in your home while you’re away and you need to start legal proceedings to have them removed
  • Public liability cover – in case, for instance, a tree falls from your property and damages your neighbour’s roof.  

Cover can vary among providers, so check your policy to see what’s included and if there are any exclusions.

Make sure you understand the policy details before you buy so you know what’s required. For example, you may need someone to check on your property while it’s empty, perhaps once every 14 days, as a condition of your policy.

What doesn’t unoccupied home insurance cover?

Some common exclusions with unoccupied property insurance include:

  • Burglary through unforced entry – if you leave a door or window unlocked and your home is burgled, your insurance provider won’t accept your claim
  • Renovations or building works – if you’re doing structural work on the property, damage isn’t normally covered so you might want to consider a specialist building works or renovation policy too
  • Builders and contractors – if you hire a contractor, they should have their own insurance in place
  • Damage caused by poor maintenance – keeping your property in a good state of repair is one way to reduce the likelihood of claims, and it also means your insurance provider is less likely to reject your claim.

How much is unoccupied home insurance?

The price of empty house insurance depends on several factors. However, insuring an empty house usually costs more than regular home insurance because there’s an increased risk associated with nobody being at the property.

Here are some factors that could affect the cost of your unoccupied home insurance:

  • The property’s value – the more expensive the property, the more it will cost to repair or rebuild
  • Your cover level – the more protection you have, the higher your premium
  • The cover period – the longer you leave your property vacant, the higher your quote is likely to be
  • The location – if your property is in a high-crime area or one prone to flooding, it’s more likely you’ll have to claim
  • Your security – adding extra security features to an unoccupied property could help deter burglars, making you less of a risk to insurance providers and your insurance potentially cheaper
  • Your claims history – if you’ve had several problems with your pipework over the years, for example, it suggests you’re more likely to claim again.

Why do I need to tell my insurance provider if my home is unoccupied?

If you don’t let your insurance provider know that your home is empty for a longer period than is set out in your policy, you could invalidate your home insurance. This means that if you need to make a claim, your insurance provider may refuse to pay it.

Comparing unoccupied home insurance

If you already have a home insurance policy in place, it’s worth calling your insurance provider to see how much extra you’ll need to pay while your home is unoccupied. You can then make sure the quote is competitive by comparing quotes from other insurance providers.

Please note, at Compare the Market we can only help you insure your home if it’s unoccupied for a short period and you usually live there.

If you’re looking for buildings or contents insurance, one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting a good deal is to shop around and see what else is out there. We compare quotes for 77 products from 42 home insurance providers[1] in minutes, helping you find the right cover for your property without all the hassle.

[1] Correct as of December 2023.

Frequently asked questions

How long can a house be unoccupied for?

Standard home insurance will usually allow for a property to be unoccupied for 30 days. But all policies are different, with some offering cover for up to 60 days, so you’ll need to read yours to be sure. Unoccupied home insurance policies are more flexible, so you could arrange cover for three months, six months or a year, depending on how long you plan to be away or the property takes to be sold, for example.

I’m a landlord and my property is unoccupied between tenants. Do I need unoccupied home insurance?

Landlord insurance may be more flexible about how long a property can be empty for, which could be helpful if you’re between tenants or want to carry out renovations.

Check your policy to find out how long your property can be left empty. If it’s likely to be vacant for longer than allowed, read our guide to landlord insurance for unoccupied properties.

What if my second home is unoccupied for more than 30 days?

If you have a second home that’s unoccupied for long periods, you’ll need to arrange vacant property insurance. But if your second home is unoccupied for less than 30 days at a time, most standard home insurance policies allow for this. Some policies even cover an unoccupied home for up to 60 days.

What’s the difference between a vacant property and an unoccupied property?

If the property is unoccupied, it just means no one is living there at the moment but their property and furnishings are still there.

If the property is vacant, there will be no one living on the property but it will be empty with no contents or personal property.

You can get cover for both situations. If the property contains contents you’ll need to let any prospective insurance provider know the value of the contents when you get a quote. 

Can I insure an empty property if it’s for sale?

Yes, if your property is up for sale and you won’t be living there for a longer period than your home insurance allows, an unoccupied home policy is right for you. You should be able to add unoccupied home insurance to your existing policy, so check with your insurance provider.

How can I get a lower premium on my unoccupied property?

If you’ve taken on board all our tips for keeping your property safe and secure, there are a few more steps you can take to lower your insurance premium for insuring a vacant property. You could: 

Pay annually

Paying for your premium upfront, rather than in monthly instalments, will typically mean you avoid interest payments.  

Consider a higher voluntary excess

Increasing the amount you pay towards a claim if you have to make one will potentially reduce your premium. Just make sure you can afford to pay your share of any claim if necessary. 

Don’t over or underinsure

Make sure you’re insured for the right amount, so, for example, any rebuild costs are accurate and you estimate the value of any contents correctly, particularly if you are removing valuables while you are away. 

Shop around

Don’t just accept the first quote you’re given, comparing quotes will help you find the most competitive one. Just remember to make sure any policy has the cover that you need – the cheapest deal isn’t always the best. 

Helen Phipps - insurance expert

Having worked in both sides of the industry, Helen’s a real insurance expert. She’s worked directly with several insurance providers and now Compare the Market. She’s always searching for the cheapest prices for customers and is passionate about saving people money. Being married with two kids, Helen knows all about the cost of living and the benefits of having the right products and insurance for the whole family.

Learn more about Helen

Rachel Lacey - Insurance and money expert

Rachel’s a self-confessed money nerd who’s been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She spent 17 years writing for Moneywise, including a few years as Editor, and likes making complicated subjects like insurance, pensions, investing and tax, easy for people to understand.

Learn more about Rachel