Most insurance providers consider a property to be unoccupied if it’s empty for more than 30 consecutive days. It’s important that you notify your provider if this is going to be the case. After 30 days, different insurers change their cover levels at different cut off points and for different situations: for example, if the property being insured is your main residence, HomeProtect, requires you to arrange for weekly inspection visits to be carried out. Sometimes this is referred to as the 30 day rule by insurers.
This depends on the reason why your property is empty, and how long it’s unoccupied. If your property is usually let out, you’re covered for water damage during ‘voids’ between tenants of up to 21 days.
If the property is your main home and you’ve let us know that it’s empty for 31-180 days in a row a year, you’re covered so long as the water is turned off at the mains stopcock, or the property’s central heating system is left on continually to maintain a minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius/60 degrees Fahrenheit between 1 October and 1 April inclusive. This also applies to holiday homes that are empty for any period up to 180 days.
If the property is completely unoccupied and unfurnished, or it’s furnished but unoccupied for more than 180 consecutive days a year, you’re not covered for water damage.
Yes! There is, however, often a minimum policy duration for unoccupied insurance, so if the sale completes within this period, you may not be eligible for a full refund on the unused portion of an annual premium paid in advance. If you’ve chosen to pay monthly, you woudl still have to pay for the minimum period.
There is no need to turn off gas or electricity for insurance reasons and, in fact, it can be a good idea to arrange for lights to come on using a timer switch to deter burglars.
You only need to turn off your mains water if we’ve asked you to as part of the terms and conditions of your unoccupied property insurance cover, although it is also a sensible precaution to take.
Yes. To be covered by a HomeProtect home insurance policy the property must be inspected on a weekly basis by you or someone authorised by you.
Not necessarily! Many of the factors that affect insurance premiums for empty properties are the same as those for occupied homes, such as location and rebuild value. The cost of insurance may be higher for a particular property when it is empty than when it is unoccupied because of higher security risks, or it may be similar but with limitations on what is covered; for example, buildings cover may be limited to fire, lightening, explosion, earthquake and aircraft collision, but not include storm, flood or subsidence.
Probably not. Standard insurance policies do not generally provide adequate cover for vacant homes, which are usually classed as being left empty for 30 consecutive days or more.
So long as your insurance provider is aware that the property is unoccupied, and you meet any specific terms and conditions of your policy, such as inspecting the property at least once a week, a house can certainly be covered even if it is empty for a long time.
HomeProtect home insurance covers a wide variety of situations including properties that are let out, as well as properties that are empty for different reasons, such as during voids between tenants.
If your property is usually rented out but will be empty for more than 21 days, you need to let us know.
Properties can be unoccupied for a number of reasons. If it’s your main home, you might be away for an extended period for work or on holiday. A home may also be left empty if an elderly owner has moved into care or during probate. Properties are also often unoccupied if extensive building work is being carried out.
Many unoccupied properties are second homes, which have either been bought as rental properties or inherited. Buy-to-let properties may be empty because of ‘voids’ between tenants, or while undergoing renovation, and holiday homes may be vacant out of season. Inherited properties are frequently left empty while the new owner or owners decides what to do with them, particularly as this type of home may need renovation before it is suitable for rental.
Yes! Despite frequent discussions in the media of a housing shortage, analysis of government data by The Telegraph in 2017 suggested that there could be over a million empty homes in the UK.
When your property is unoccupied, the risk of theft occurring is greater, as is the potential amount of damage caused by water from a burst pipe or slipped tile on the roof. As a result, the terms and conditions of home insurance cover are generally slightly different for empty homes compared with occupied homes.
Empty properties carry greater risks in terms of burglary, vandalism or even squatting, and also the amount of damage caused by unnoticed issues like bust pipes. It’s easy to imagine how carpets and skirting boards could be ruined by water escaping over several days in an empty house, whereas in an occupied property it would be spotted much more quickly.
Your insurance provider needs to know that your property is unoccupied for 30 consecutive days or more so that they can factor these increased risks into your policy terms.
As with any insurance policy, the cover is based on the information you’ve given your provider, so if it’s incorrect there is a risk that your policy could be cancelled or that any claims could be rejected.
Empty house insurance covers your premises for losses caused by fire, lightning, explosion, earthquake, smoke, aircraft collision and legal liability.
Many of the factors that affect insurance premiums for empty properties are the same as those for occupied homes, such as location and rebuild value. The cost of insurance may be higher for a particular property when it is empty than when it is unoccupied because of higher security risks, or it may be similar but with limitations on what is covered; for example, buildings cover may be limited to fire, lightening, explosion, earthquake and aircraft collision, but not include storm, flood or subsidence.
Depending on the type of cover you choose, you may be able to reduce your premium by increasing the voluntary excess that you would pay if you claimed.
If you own an empty property, there are several things you can do to make it less of a target for burglars, vandals or squatters. These include ensuring that milk deliveries have been cancelled, arranging for post to be cleared away from the doormat, maintaining any gardens and avoiding having windows boarded up.
Your local Council have control over whether you pay full rate Council tax or whether you are eligible for a discount or full exemption. In some cases, you might pay up to 50% less council tax for the first 2 years that your home is empty. You will need to let the Council know that the property is empty to apply for the discount. However, once your property has been empty and unfurnished for two years, your Council will start to charge up to 50% more.
If the property is under probate and you are selling it on behalf of the deceased person’s estate then you will be exempt from Council tax charges for the first 6 months after you get probate.
Some homes are fully exempt from Council tax charges until a resident moves in, such as:
When you inherit a property from a deceased loved one, you inherit it at the market value of the house at the time of death.
If you keep the inherited property as well as your own main home you will have two years to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) which of the two homes is your main home.
The non-main home will then become liable for capital gains tax payment. It’s a good idea to nominate your main home as the one that you think will gain the most value.
If you sell the inherited house without having moved into it, the capital gains tax will be based on the difference in value between the inherited value and the sale value, less selling costs.
What is an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO)?
Introduced by the UK Government in 2006, the Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) process was originally intended to be used by local Councils to empower them to purchase long term empty homes from the owners and subsequently rent the homes out to tenants.
The property has to have been empty for more than two years and be causing a nuisance to the local community, because it’s derelict and encouraging vandalism or other property crime in the area.
Once an initial EDMO has been applied for by the local Council, the owner of the empty property and the Council have 12 months to try to negotiate an amicable solution. If this fails, the Council can then apply for a final EDMO after which steps are then taken to buy the property and put the empty home back into use. Generally, the property owner and the local Council can make arrangements in the interim phase, avoiding the need for a final EDMO.
How long can you leave your house unoccupied?
If you know in advance that you are going away and you have some time to prepare for leaving the home empty, then there’s no limit to how long you can leave your house unoccupied.
Before you leave, you should take some steps to ensure the property is well maintained and secure and to make it appear as though someone is at home.
Then, when the property is ready, find an insurance policy which covers long term empty homes. Most unoccupied home insurance providers will have a requirement relating to the property being checked regularly by a nominated friend or neighbour so that if damage does occur it’s reported and fixed quickly. Normally theft, accidental damage and damage caused by vandalism will be excluded from the cover too. HomeProtect provides access to online quotes for empty home insurance.
If you leave home unexpectedly, for example if you are taken into a care home or you move in with a relative to care for them, you can still protect your empty home. Take as many of the property preparation steps as possible from afar to prevent arson, squatters, looting etc. Then check your current home insurance policy – if your policy only covers up to 30 days unoccupied make sure you search for alternative insurance arrangements with a provider who will cover long term unoccupied homes and switch to the new insurer, then cancel the previous policy.
How do I evict squatters from my empty home?
Squatters are people who are “living” in your property with no right to do so, they are trespassing on your property. You will obviously want to evict them from your property as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately squatters tend to change the locks when they move in and stay in the property all the time so that you will have very little or no opportunity to get into the property to secure it with new locks.
The best approach is to get legal advice from a solicitor immediately, as you may need to take the matter to court for a possession order to be issued so that the eviction can legally take place.
How do I make it look like someone is home?
If you are going to leave your home empty, it’s a good idea to make it look as though someone is at home whilst you’re away, to prevent burglary and vandalism.
Here are our helpful tips:
- Set up timer switches on lights on each floor and a radio on a timer somewhere near the front door.
- Leave the curtains and blinds half open.
- Arrange for a nominated friend or neighbour to visit the property every week, collecting post from the doormat, mow the lawns, check that there’s no damage, no infestations and that the heating is running on a low temperature.
- If you have a driveway, ask for one of your neighbours to park their car in the drive every night.
- Arrange for a neighbour to move your rubbish bins to the roadside on bin day, putting in some of their recycling into the bins at the same time.