What is unoccupied home insurance?

It is a policy designed to protect the buildings and contents of a property that is empty for an extended period of time.

If you are leaving your property empty, contact your home insurer to let them know.

Some insurers will continue to cover your empty house, but the cover may be limited. Most policies restrict cover if the property is left vacant for more than 30 days.

If your policy does not cover you, look for specialist unoccupied home insurance policy.

Why would you have an unoccupied house?

There are many reasons you may need to insure an empty home, for example if you are:

  • Renovating the property

  • Between tenants

  • Selling your home but have already moved into a new property

  • Waiting for probate

Another common reason is if you hold power of attorney over an elderly relative who has moved out of their house and into care.

What does it cover?

It can cover the same things as your main home insurance policy, including:

You should not keep any valuable items in an unoccupied property because they will be at a higher risk of theft.

The fewer valuable items you have in the property, the less contents cover you need, which could mean your insurance will cost less.

If you are renovating an empty property, some policies cover any work you are doing including decorating, alterations or extensions.

What are the risks?

Unoccupied homes are more at risk to certain threats that might result in a claim, for example:

  • Fire, flood or storm damage

  • Burglary

  • Vandalism

  • Damage caused by squatters

Check the policy documents to make sure these risks are covered before take out a policy.

If there is a flood or fire your unoccupied property could suffer more because there is nobody at the property to raise the alarm or limit the damage.

Due to these increased risks, unoccupied home insurance can be more expensive than standard cover.

Is the property in good condition?

Most unoccupied home insurers need to know what condition the property is in before they offer you cover.

You may be unable to get a policy if it is in a poor state of repair, for example if it has:

  • Boarded up entrances

  • Broken windows

  • A damaged roof

Most insurers insist the property is fitted with certain security devices, usually including burglar alarms and approved locks on all doors and windows.

You may also need to set the heating on a timer to make sure the pipes do not freeze and burst. If you do not take these precautions your insurer may not pay out if you need to make a claim.

Choose the length of cover

You can usually insure an empty house for less than the usual 12 months required by standard home insurance policies.

Most unoccupied home insurers offer short term policies over three, six or nine months.

This flexibility is useful if you are trying to sell the property and do not know how long it will take.