Home insurance and your unoccupied home

Going on an extended business trip, or waiting for a new tenant to move in? Don’t waste time worrying about the ins and outs of unoccupied home insurance – we’ve done the legwork for you.

This is everything you need to know about how an unoccupied house could affect your home insurance policy and premiums.

Going on an extended business trip, or waiting for a new tenant to move in? Don’t waste time worrying about the ins and outs of unoccupied home insurance – we’ve done the legwork for you.

This is everything you need to know about how an unoccupied house could affect your home insurance policy and premiums.

Chris King
Home insurance expert
minute read
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Posted 2 DECEMBER 2021

What is unoccupied home insurance?

Unoccupied home insurance is a specific type of insurance policy for when you leave your home unoccupied for longer than your regular home policy allows, usually 30 days. With a specific unoccupied policy, you can leave the property vacant until your policy ends.

Unoccupied home insurance is needed because providers see an unoccupied home as a greater risk. First, a vacant home is more attractive to burglars, but there’s also the building’s maintenance to think about. If there was a water leak and nobody was there to notice and fix it, the damage could be much worse than it needed to be.

What does empty house insurance cover? 

Here are some of the things that unoccupied home insurance can cover:

  • Fire 
  • Flood 
  • Storms 
  • Theft or attempted theft 
  • Vandalism 
  • Damage caused by water or oil 
  • Damage from impact 

Insurance policies are not all the same. It’s important to ask your insurance provider directly, to find out exactly what you’re covered for – as well as the things you’re not. You might find there are certain restrictions placed on your insurance policy only while it’s unoccupied, but the rest of the time, normal service remains.

What is not covered by unoccupied home insurance?

While an unoccupied home insurance policy will cover you for most of the important things, you should look out for some of these common exclusions:

  • Burglary through unforced entry - if you left a door or window unlocked and the property was burgled, your insurance provider won’t accept your claim
  • Extensive renovations or building works – if you’re doing structural work on the property, damages won’t normally be covered, so please check with your insurance provider first.
  • Builders and contractors - if you’ve hired a contractor to do work on the property, they should have their own insurance in place to protect you.

What factors affect the cost of unoccupied home insurance?

Here are the things that affect the cost of unoccupied home insurance:

  • The property’s value – the more expensive the property, the more it’ll cost to repair or rebuild, making it more expensive to insure.
  • Your level of cover – if you want a higher level of cover, perhaps including extras to your policy, it will cost more to insure.
  • The property’s location – if the property’s located in an area that’s prone to flooding or has a high crime rate, there’s a higher chance of a claim being made. This makes it more expensive to insure.
  • The property’s security – if the property is unoccupied, having extra security features will help deter burglars, reducing the risk of a claim and, therefore, the cost of your insurance.

As with all insurance, it’s impossible to give a specific figure as your insurance will be personalised to you. Every property and every insurance provider is different. However, you should know that it usually costs a bit more than regular home insurance, because there’s an increased risk associated with nobody being at the property

Why might a property be unoccupied? 

Examples of when you may need an unoccupied home insurance policy include:

  • Being unable to live in your home due to extensive renovation or building work
  • Awaiting the sale of the property or having to wait to move in
  • You’re travelling for a long time
  • It’s a second property or holiday home that you don’t normally live in
  • You’re unable to live in the home because you’ve been admitted to hospital or care long-term
  • You’ve inherited the property 
  • You’re going to be away on business, or on an extended holiday. 

According to Government statistics, there were 648,114 long-term empty homes in England, in October 2019. (Long-term empty homes are those which have been unoccupied for more than six months). At the same time in Wales, the figure stood at 27,000. In Scotland, in 2019, 84,600 homes were left vacant for a minimum of six months.

Why do I need to tell my insurance provider that my home will be unoccupied? 

Insurance providers tend to consider an unoccupied home riskier than a home with people living in it. The chances of water damage, vandalism or break-ins are likely to be higher when there’s no one at home to spot issues quickly, or prevent them.

Every insurance provider will have a different view on unoccupied properties, so you’ll need to speak to yours directly, to find out what level of cover they’ll offer.

You’ll run the risk of invalidating your home insurance policy, if you fail to tell your insurance provider that your home is going to be unoccupied for a longer period than is set out in your policy. If you need to make a claim, your insurance provider may refuse to pay it.

Comparing unoccupied home insurance

If you already have a policy, you could phone your existing home insurance provider to get a quote for how much extra you’ll need to pay, if and when your home is unoccupied. Then make sure the quote provided is competitive, by comparing quotes from a number of other insurance providers. This will help ensure that you’re able to get a great price and the right amount of cover that you need. But please note, at Compare the Market we can only help you insure your home if it’s unoccupied for a short period of time and you still usually live there.

Frequently asked questions

What if I’m a landlord and my property is unoccupied between occupants?

Landlord insurance is a bit like home insurance, but it’s specifically designed to cover rental properties. And it’s designed to make life easier for landlords who will be missing out on rent for a few weeks or months.

Landlord insurance will usually allow a home to remain empty for up to three months. This can be very helpful, as it can often take more than a month for a new tenant to move in, or you may want to carry out renovations between tenants.

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

If your second home is likely to be unoccupied for longer periods, you’ll need to take out an unoccupied home insurance policy to protect the property. If you try claiming on a standard home insurance policy, your claim will probably be rejected. However, if a property is left unoccupied for less than 30 days at a time, most standard home insurance policies will cover the property. Some policies may even cover a home being unoccupied for up to 60 days.

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

Yes, absolutely, if your property is up for sale and you won’t be living there in the meantime for a period longer than your home insurance allows, an unoccupied home insurance policy is right for you. Just check your existing policy first, as you may not need additional cover, if you sell your property quickly enough. You should also be able to add unoccupied home insurance to your existing home insurance policy, so it’s worth checking with your provider.

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

There are things you can do to get a lower premium. Installing extra security - locks on doors and a burglar alarm - could help to lower your premium. It will also help if you keep your property well maintained and if you ask family members to stay there occasionally, as this may mean it’s not classed as unoccupied. But check with your provider as you may need to declare occupants who aren’t permanent residents, in case they cause damage to your home.

How can I claim on my unoccupied home insurance?

Each insurance provider will have their own way of handling claims. However, you’ll normally need to call a number, which you should be able to find with your policy documents. You should call your provider as soon as possible, after the event. If relevant, providers will also want you to get hold of a police report to support your claim.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind before you make a claim. First is the excess on your policy. This is something you’ll need to pay towards any claim you make, so make sure that the damages/losses are worth claiming for. On top of that, making a claim will cause you to lose any no-claims bonus you’ve built up over the years. Losing a no-claims bonus will normally make your premiums more expensive, so you need to consider if it’s worth making the claim and losing that saving. If either of these are an issue for you, it may be worth paying for any damages yourself.

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