UNDERSTANDING EMPTY HOUSE INSURANCE
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. 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
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.
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.
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.
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 30 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.
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.
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.
What’s covered by UNOCCUPIED HOME insurance?
Unoccupied home insurance cover varies depending on whether the property is empty on a short term of long term basis.
Short term unoccupancy
If the property is usually occupied but is left unoccupied for between 31 and 180 days, then you typically get all the cover of our standard policy terms, but with exception of certain exclusions, see what is and isn’t covered below:
Quick home emergency response times
Have a home emergency, such as electricity failure, faulty locks or vermin infestation? With the 24/7 Home Emergency cover, which we provide as standard, you can typically get an engineer at your home within four hours. And if you’re worried about an uncontrollable leak in your home, we aim to have an emergency plumber to you within two hours.
Extreme weather conditions may extend response time. Policy terms and claim limits apply.
5 star rated buildings cover
Our building insurance has been given the highest rating by independent financial research companies, Defaqto and Moneyfacts.
Any buildings work we undertake is guaranteed for 24 months following a claim and any contents repair work we undertake is guaranteed for 12 months.
New for old
Where we replace an item, we will do our best to meet the original specification on a ‘new for old’ basis. If we can’t find an exact replacement, we’ll offer you a suitable alternative, or a full cash settlement.
We provide Legal Protection cover as standard, giving you access to telephone legal advice on any personal legal issue, under the laws of the UK, any European Union country, the Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Switzerland and Norway.
What isn’t included?
Escape of water incidents during the period: 1 October – 1 April (inclusive).
Theft incidents, unless all security features (e.g. locks and alarms) included in your property are maintained in good working order and in full operation.
Claims involving money and high risk items (e.g. jewellery).
Damage cause gradually, or by wear and tear, or by failure to fix a known issue.
Faulty design or poor workmanship.
Damage caused by pets.
The cost of repairing or replacing items following a mechanical or electrical fault.
Long term unoccupancy
If the property is not usually occupied, or is left unoccupied for more than 180 days, there are two levels of cover. Basic cover is available online. Extended cover is available over the phone, via referral to our underwriting team. The following table compares what sort of insured events are covered:
|Insured loss||Basic cover (available online)||Extended cover (call for quote)|
|Fire, Lightning, Earthquake, Explosion, Aircraft or other flying devices (FLEEA)||✔||✔|
|Liability to the public||✔||✔|
|Escape of Water or oil||✖||✖|
|Storm or flood||✖||✔|
|Subsidence or tree roots||✖||✔|
|Theft (including attempted theft)||✖||✔|
|Collisions with wild animals or vehicles||✖||✔|
|Aerials & falling objects||✖||✔|
|Damage by emergency services||✖||✔|
Looking for more cover? Give us a call on 0330 660 1000 to talk to our team about extended cover.
UNOCCUPIED HOME Insurance Cover Levels
The following cover levels apply for both short and long-term unoccupancy:
Covers the main structure of your home if you need to rebuild or repair it.
up to £1 million
(eligibility criteria applies)
Covering the value of all your possessions in the home, on a new for old basis.
Covers emergencies that occur in your home like uncontrollable water leaks, electricity failure, faulty locks and vermin infestation. Two levels of cover are available.
up to £500
Family legal protection
Provides a 24/7 legal advice helpline and up to £25,000 cover for claims involving contract disputes and property damage. For a claim to be successful, there must be reasonable prospects (more than a 50% chance) of winning the legal case. Two levels of cover are available.
up to £25,000
Covers rebuild or repair of your outbuildings (such as detached garages, greenhouses, sheds and summerhouses).
Liability cover involving accidental death, bodily injury or illness or property damage that you are legally liable to pay.
up to £5 million
Your Questions Answered
You will need to prove you have an ‘insurable interest’ in the property for Homeprotect to provide cover. Once confirmed, the probate home insurance policy will usually be issued in the name of the executor with any beneficiaries named as additional policyholders.
There are no regulations around how long a homeowner can leave their property unoccupied. However, when it comes to purchasing vacant property insurance with Homeprotect, your home must have been unoccupied for more than 30 days.
If you’re planning to leave your home empty for an extended period, there are a few safety and security considerations. Firstly, after 30 days unoccupied, most home insurance policies are void – so, the homeowner would need an empty home insurance policy to protect against theft or damage. Many empty home insurance policies will also expect the home to be inspected regularly, water and electricity to be switched off and more.
Additional considerations include installing a home security system and using smart devices such as leak detection technology.
If you own the freehold of your flat, you should take out buildings insurance. If you live in a leasehold flat, or are a tenant, your landlord has responsibility for sourcing buildings insurance.
Empty properties carry greater risks in terms of burglary, vandalism or even squatting, and also the amount of damage caused by unnoticed issues like burst pipes.
Homeprotect needs to know if your property is unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days or more so that they can factor these increased risks into your policy terms.
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