If your property is likely to stand unoccupied for more than a specified period of time (typically 30-45 consecutive days) then you’ll need to take out special insurance protection for it and any contents you may have inside.
Whether you have an owner-occupier or landlord’s buildings and contents insurance policy, the cover may become invalid if your property is unoccupied. That might mean a claim being rejected.
What is unoccupied property?
You will need to check the specifics of your policy to be sure but many define anything at or over 30 consecutive days without occupants as the legal threshold for your property to be considered ‘unoccupied’. So, you have plenty of time to go on a normal duration holiday or spend time away visiting relatives or taking a business trip.
If the period exceeds 30 days though, you’ll need to do something about your buildings insurance cover.
Incidentally, unoccupied means ‘unoccupied’ and not ‘empty’. Even if your property is fully furnished, it will still count as unoccupied once the threshold number of days is passed. The reason for it won’t matter either, so it would include:
- extended holidays, business trips, gap-year exploits;
- being unoccupied whilst undergoing renovation or redecoration;
- delays between tenancies;
Why do insurance providers do this?
This limitation isn’t imposed based upon a whim.
It’s set in recognition of the fact that, statistically, your property is at much higher risk of many forms of mishap leading to a claim if it’s sitting unoccupied. One only has to think of the widely-known attractions of unoccupied property to burglars and vandals to see the logic of that.
Or the fact that a small, unnoticed leak can cause real damage if left to its own devices for several days or weeks.
So, your insurance policy provider will include a degree of that risk in their standard policy to cope with say holidays, but they can’t offer unlimited unoccupied property insurance as part of a typical standard landlord or owner-occupier policy.
It wouldn’t be fair to ask everyone to pay higher premiums for a form of extended cover that would only be of benefit to a relatively small percentage of policyholders.
It couldn’t be easier. Just contact us and we can help you find the most cost-effective and appropriate empty property insurance for your own needs – as well as answer any insurance related questions you may have.
Even if you have your unoccupied property cover in place, you probably don’t want anything to go wrong while you’re away. There are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of that happening.
Your insurance provider might also have some specific conditions in this area too, including periodic, logged inspections.
- making sure there are no obvious signs (accumulating mail, closed curtains etc.) that you’re away;
- most burglars dislike risk and the possibility of disturbance. If possible, ask a neighbour or friend to pop in during the day to re-arrange your curtains, blinds and switch a light on/off. Lighting switch timers are a good idea as well;
- in renovation or redecoration cases, you can’t do much about external scaffolding but otherwise, don’t allow builders to hang signs on your doors/windows advertising their services and unintentionally in the process, also that your property is probably standing unoccupied;
- it’s usually a good idea to shut off your water at source as well as any gas supplies. A slight variation here might apply if freezing weather is anticipated, in which case it might be sensible to leave the heating on a low level. Check with your insurance provider as to what they require in this respect;
- don’t broadcast the fact that you’re going to be away. Open social media, blogs, going away parties in pubs and so on, could all be advertising to potential thieves that your property is open territory;
- install an approved burglar alarm if you don’t already have one;
- make sure that your gutters, drains and downpipes are clear and ready to cope with inundations while you’re away. Even while you’re away, your unoccupied cover may oblige you to pay to keep these and related maintenance components in good order.
Once again, if you’re in any doubt, take the advice of an experienced property insurance provider such as ourselves at Specialist4Property.