Can you insure an unoccupied house?

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If you own a property that will be left empty, you need a specialist home insurance policy to protect it. Here is how to cover your unoccupied home.
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Most standard home insurance plans won’t cover your property if it’s left empty for 30 days or more.

This means that if you are likely to be leaving a property empty for longer than that, it’s important to let your insurer know.

What is unoccupied home insurance?

Unoccupied home insurance is a policy designed to protect the buildings and contents of a property that is empty for an extended period of time. You may also see it referred to as empty house insurance.

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

If your insurer cannot offer the cover you need, look for a specialist unoccupied home insurance policy.

Why would you have an unoccupied house?

There are many reasons you might have an empty property, for example, if you are:

  • Renovating the property

  • Between tenants

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

  • Waiting for probate or have inherited a property

  • Taking an extended holiday

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?

Unoccupied home insurance covers 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 insurance you will need and the lower your premium will be.  

If you are renovating an empty property, some policies will cover you throughout the process. However, don’t expect it to cover any damage caused by your builders, they should have their own insurance to cover their work.

You may also want to check whether the policy offers legal cover or public liability cover. This would come in handy if you had some unwelcome squatters to deal with or there was an accident at the property.

What are the risks?

If a home is unoccupied it is at greater risk than one that is being lived in. Specific risks include:

  • Burglary

  • Vandalism

  • Damage caused by squatters

  • Damage resulting from fire, floods or storms 

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

If there is a storm, 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 is usually more expensive than the equivalent standard cover.

Exactly how much you pay for unoccupied home insurance will vary according to a number of factors, including its location, condition, value and its level of security. The length of time the property will be empty will be taken into account too.

Is the property in good condition?

Most unoccupied home insurers will 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 will insist the property is fitted with certain security devices, 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 don’t freeze and burst. If you do not take these precautions your insurer may not payout 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.

Protect your home and belongings for less by comparing home insurance policies to cover a range of property types and individual circumstances.

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