Understanding empty house insurance

An owner’s guide to insuring an unoccupied home
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Let’s define unoccupied: as far as the insurance industry is concerned, an empty property is one that is uninhabited for more than 30 days (or 21 days in the case of homes which are usually let out to tenants). This is often referred to as the 30 day rule by insurers, or even the 30/60/90 day rule because some providers – unlike HomeProtect – won’t cover a property at all if it’s vacant for more than 60 or 90 days.

Whether a vacant house is furnished isn’t important – which is why empty homes are often referred to as unoccupied properties by insurance providers.

In this guide

Why empty house insurance is important | Unoccupied main residence

Untenanted properties | Probate and inherited homes | Flexible insurance for an empty property

Why it’s important to have empty house insurance

Perhaps the simplest reason for insuring an unoccupied home is because your mortgage company requires you to have buildings cover in place as a condition of the loan. This obviously applies to holiday homes, second homes, and buy-to-let property, as well as your main residence if you’ve moved out during renovations or you have to be away with work for an extended period.

But if you own your empty property outright – perhaps because you’ve inherited it, or because you’ve already paid it off and are now planning a long holiday during your retirement – you’ll want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re protected if the worst happens whilst you’re away.

When it comes to insuring an unoccupied property, it’s worth remembering that even buildings-only insurance for an empty house covers you for more than just damage caused by fire, lightening or smoke; HomeProtect policies also include protection against legal liability, for example, if a tile comes off your roof and damages your neighbour’s conservatory.

Empty home insurance for your main residence

As insurance companies consider a property to be unoccupied if it’s empty for more than 30 days, the level of cover included in empty property insurance usually changes at this cut-off point, with further changes the longer a home is left vacant.

With HomeProtect empty property insurance for your main home, for instance, if your property is unoccupied for more than 30 days in a row between 1 October and 1 April, you’ll need to turn off the water or keep the heating on continuously for your usual cover levels to remain in place.  This is to reduce the risk of damage caused by water escaping from frozen pipes bursting.

If you’re away for more than 45 days, we ask you to remove all valuables, money and credit cards from your home and we also require weekly inspection visits when post is moved out of sight from anyone visiting the outside of your property so that it’s less obvious that your house is empty.

It’s also always a good idea to arrange for someone to maintain your garden and hedges so that the property looks lived in as this will help it avoid unwanted attention from burglars.

Away for more than 30 days? Insure your unoccupied home

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Empty property insurance for untenanted properties

Landlords understandably dread void between tenants, but they’re also a fact of life if you have a buy-to-let property. And sometimes you may actually choose to leave your property tenantless for a period, perhaps so that you can decorate it or carry out a more substantial renovation which will allow you to charge higher rents in future or just simply attract tenants more easily. This might include putting in a new kitchen or bathroom, or even build an extension which includes an extra bedroom.

If your property is vacant, it’s important that you tell your insurance provider this to avoid unpleasant surprises in the event you need to make a claim. In the case of HomeProtect policies, we need to know if this type if property is untenanted for more than 21 days. As we specialise in renovation cover as well as landlord insurance, it’s likely that you’ll only need to adjust your existing HomeProtect policy in either of these situations, but the important thing is that you keep us up to date with what’s going on.

Insurance for an empty property that’s in probate or inherited

If you’ve inherited an empty property or you’re the executor for someone‘s will that is going through probate, it’s important that you insure the unoccupied property until such time as it is sold or rented out.

Unused properties which have belonged to an elderly person have often not been maintained, so you may need to fit better window or door locks in order to get competitively-priced empty house insurance, or even to get cover at all. This will reduce the risk of squatters gaining access to the property, which almost always causes the property owner a lot of work as well as worry.

Tip: Although boarding up windows may seem more secure than leaving dilapidated window frames without locks – and is cheaper than upgrading old windows – this advertises the fact that the property is unoccupied to squatters and vandals who might set fire to it.

Flexible insurance for empty properties

Many of the reasons why a home is empty are temporary – while you’ve moved out during renovations, while a let property is tenantless, or when an elderly relative has moved into a care home, as well as many other situations. When everything returns to normal and your empty house is reoccupied, just let us know that too.

There are generally some changes in premiums payable and the levels of cover provided as your circumstances vary, but it’s worth remembering that we cover a wide variety of situations including many that mainstream insurers refuse to handle.

And don’t forget that HomeProtect policies run for a full year, whereas with some insurers who offer short-term unoccupied home insurance, you would need to keep renewing if your property remains vacant longer than you’d expected.

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Satisfied customers

Very helpful staff who explained the cover I needed to protect a furnished, unoccupied property. The premium quoted was very competitive, in fact is was far better than quotes I received from other bespoke insurance companies. Reviews.co.uk, Jan 2022
Apart from a fair price, the biggest selling (buying) point for me is the ability for my house to be unoccupied for up to 180 days! Trustpilot, 25 May 2022
 Phoned HomeProtect as I needed Insurance for an empty house urgently. I got to speak to an agent quickly and the Insurance was put in place at a reasonable cost. Good service and all followed up with policy documents etc. Trustpilot, 25 May 2022