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
From the Home team
7
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 5 JANUARY 2020

What does empty house insurance 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 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.

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

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? 

  • 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.

Unoccupied home insurance exclusions

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 does the cover cost?  

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. The amount that you’ll pay will depend on the area in which the property is located, and the reasons why the property will be left empty. 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? 

  • You’ve inherited the property 
  • You own it as a holiday home 
  • The property is on the market, but left up for sale after you’ve moved out and into your new place 
  • You’re having it renovated and have moved out while the builders or decorators get the job done 
  • 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 2018, 83,435 homes were left vacant for a minimum of six months.

Will my home insurance still provide me with reliable cover if my home is left unoccupied for a time?

Your home insurance policy will probably state that you need to inform your insurance provider, if your home is going to be unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days.

When notifying your insurance provider, you’ll need to explain why your home is going to be unoccupied, and for how long. When it comes to holidays, unless they’re over 30 days, you typically won’t need to tell your provider. If you’re in any doubt, you can find out more here.

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.

What if I fail to tell my insurance provider?

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.

Is there anything I can do to get a lower premium?

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.

Does getting specific landlord insurance help for rented properties?

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.

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.

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.

What else should I consider?

Terms and conditions

Be sure to check the wording on your policy carefully, and make sure that you understand any requirements or exclusions stated by your insurance provider.

Keep your heating on low

Avoid frozen and burst pipes by keeping your heating and hot water on a low setting. This will also ensure your boiler continues ticking over, rather than lying dormant before firing it up again.

Security measures

Keep criminals at bay by making sure your home doesn’t look unoccupied. Ask someone to collect your post regularly to avoid an overflowing mailbox, or ask Royal Mail to keep it safe for you while you’re away. Ask family to open and close the curtains, or consider installing security measures, such as a burglar alarm or smart home security technology devices, that can turn lights on and off remotely from your phone.

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