According to official government figures, there are over 200,000 homes in the UK that have been empty for at least six months. Together, they are worth approximately £43 billion. There are many reasons these homes may be standing empty: their owners may have bought the homes as ‘buy to leave’ investments and are happy to wait until property prices rise before selling them, they could’ve gone into a care home, hospital or be deceased. This type of property could also be second homes, require refurbishment or there may be a delay in a new owner/tenant moving in.
Are you covered?
If your home is going to be standing empty for months at a time, it’s important that you have the right home insurance, or you won’t be protected.
Most standard policies will only allow you to leave your home unoccupied for 30 – 60 days at a time, so you’ll need to check your home insurance policy documents. If you find that you’re not covered, it’s essential that you get yourself unoccupied house insurance pronto, or you wouldn’t be protected, should you be burgled, or if your home got damaged by fire or flood.
Even if you are covered under your home insurance policy, it’s worth checking if there are restrictions in the winter months. Other limitations, such as theft restrictions, will apply all year round.
Some insurers will reduce the number of days you can leave your home unoccupied or insist that your heating is left on if you’re leaving for five days or more. Insurers will often also insist on the property being visited regularly, for instance, by a family member or neighbour.
What protection does unoccupied house insurance give?
The cover does vary between insurers, but, typically, unoccupied home insurance covers you for theft, vandalism, escape of water, fire, floods, storm damage and squatters. It’s worth checking your policy documents to see what is and isn’t included, as many insurers don’t cover malicious damage. There could also be restrictions on the amount you can claim for large projects, such as structural repairs or a new roof.
It’s important that your property is fitted with insurer approved locks to both the doors and windows and isn’t boarded up. Ideally, you want your home to look lived in, so that it doesn’t attract squatters. It’s a good idea to have lights set on timers and a gardener to mow your lawns regularly. You don’t want your blinds or curtains kept closed, as this could attract unwanted attention.
Most insurers will insist that your property is visited at least once a week, so, whether you ask a friend, neighbour or cleaner to do this, make sure it happens every week without fail. It’s important that you don’t neglect your home and let it become derelict, or this could invalidate your policy.
It’s always best to remove valuables and cash from your property before you go away, even if you think they’re well hidden. Turn your water off and have your heating on at a low temperature so that your pipes don’t burst while your home is unattended.
How can I buy unoccupied house insurance?
You can get unoccupied house insurance for three, six, nine or twelve months, from an unoccupied house insurance specialist.
How much you’ll be charged for your premium will depend on a number of factors, including how long you want the policy to last, the value of your home, the crime rate of the area, how secure your property is, what level of cover you’re looking for and whether or not you’ve built up a no claims discount.
Unoccupied home insurance is usually more expensive than standard home insurance, as you’re more likely to be targeted by burglars and squatters, making you a riskier proposition to insurers. Claims are likely to be larger too, as issues such as a burst pipe mightn’t be noticed straight away.