How to Insure an Unoccupied or Empty Property

There are lots of situations where a home could be unoccupied for a period of time.  It could be a pending sale and you have already moved into your new home.  Or it could be a property where someone has died and it is tied up in probate with no-one able to live in it.  Whatever the case, once the property has been unoccupied for more than 30 days, you need a special type of insurance cover for it called unoccupied or empty property insurance.

The Perils of Empty Homes

For many people with an empty house, insurance just remains in force the same as ever.  But the case was made back in 2010 when the winter in Northern Ireland was particularly bad – there was a rash of cases of burst pipes after the freeze and thaw.  And among those were a number of people whose properties were unoccupied for one reason or another.

These people found themselves mostly without cover for the damage.  Because they didn’t realise they weren’t covered or needed to inform their insurer, their policy was voided and they were left with the very costly bill for the damages.  They ranged from people with homes they weren’t using, properties in probate and even landlord’s properties that were between tenants.

When the Policy is Needed

In this and many other situations, the properties had been empty for a month or much more in some cases.  If this happens, you need to inform your insurer immediately.  In some cases, if a change is imminent, they might agree to continue the policy and keep the cover in place.  But if they don’t and they cancel the policy, you need to get specialist unoccupied insurance cover.

Specialist unoccupied property insurance covers properties where no-one is living in them for a range of perils including storm, flood, fire and sometimes theft.  There will be conditions such as the heating be on in winter and the water is turned off.  Some insurers won’t cover a property with boarded up windows as this is an enhanced risk of theft and vandalism.

Often, these policies only run for a three or six-month period because most cases don’t require a full twelve-month policy.  They are more expensive than normal home insurance because they cover a specialist risk that other home insurance covers don’t.  And some insurers may stop offering cover if the property has been unoccupied for two years or more.

Understanding the Terms

It is important to understand all the terms and requirements of this type of insurance.  As mentioned, things like heating and water may have certain requirements and locks on windows and doors will also be important.  All valuables must be usually be removed from the property and there is usually no cover for any contents in the property – so if anything is stolen or damaged, there is no cover in place.

The insurer may also stipulate that the property is checked on a regular basis so make sure you can fulfil this condition before taking the policy.