Unoccupied home cover is something you need to find out about if you have a grand design to refurbish a home you rent out or the property is standing empty for more than a few days.
Lots of rented homes are empty, sometimes for weeks or months at a time.
Homes are also left for many reasons, including waiting for a sale to go through, inheritance, or because mum or dad have moved on to a care home.
Buy to let homes are vacant sometimes for several weeks between tenancies, while tenants have the same calls on their time as the rest of us, which may mean they have to live away for a few weeks.
Ask a tenant to let you know if they are likely to be away for at least 30 days.
Whatever the reason, most home insurance policies don’t provide cover if you leave a property empty for a month or more. Instead, many invoke special terms if you leave a home unoccupied, like draining down the water system over the winter.
For peace of mind, you should check your landlord insurance policies if you plan to leave the place empty for a month or more.
What is unoccupied home cover?
As a responsible landlord, you probably already have buildings insurance.
If you leave the house for 30 days or more, some insurers believe the risk of fire, flood, a break-in or vandalism increases.
According to The Crime Prevention website, 60 per cent of burglaries occur when no one is home, increasing the risk of a break-in during tenant voids or other absences.
Official government data reckons 635,000 homes are empty across the UK, and 270,000 of these have stood empty for more than six months. The figures also show that one in seven homeowners leave a property empty for more than a month at a time.
Although buildings cover protects against the cost of repairing or rebuilding a destroyed or damaged home, the cover automatically reduces if you stay away from home for an extended time.
Many policies have a special clause covering for squatters taking over the property.
Claims for loss or damage due to theft, malicious damage and flooding are typically excluded unless you tell them you are absent for more than 30 days and sometimes agree to some extra precautions, such as a friend or neighbour regularly popping in to check the property.
The insurer might ask you for an extra payment to keep cover in place while you are away to account for the extra risk.
Properties that need unoccupied home cover
It’s easy to overlook when you should tell your insurer that a home will stand empty for 30 days or more, so here’s a list of some properties that qualify:
- Your home
- Buy to let property and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)
- Holiday lets
- Second homes
Holiday lets and second homes need specialist insurance policies as they stand empty for long periods at a time.
Arranging unoccupied home cover
Get in touch with your home insurer as soon as you know you will be away from home for a month or more.
They will want to know the dates you are likely to be absent and that you have left the property secure.
You might want to consider a security upgrade by investing in decent locks and smart CCTV equipment inside and out of the house. Don’t forget to drain down the water and check any smoke or burglar alarms work as expected.
Some insurers will keep your cover running while you are away, while others may want an extra payment or impose new terms.
Landlord insurance generally protects voids, but how long a home is empty may vary bewteen 30 and 60 days between policies. A few policies reduce the number of days the home can stand empty during winter.
One pitfall to watch for is if a rented home is empty for renovation. Insurers will want to know the building is secure if work is carried out on windows, an extension or roof.
You don’t have to arrange the cover with your existing insurer. Specialist companies advertising on the internet will offer tailored plans if your current insurer can’t.
Making an unoccupied insurance claim
Claiming unoccupied home cover is no different than claiming against any other policy.
Simply call your insurer to start the process. Have to hand your policy details and a note of the dates the property was empty to ease the claim.
Unoccupied Home Cover FAQ
What is an unoccupied home?
For insurance purposes, an unoccupied home is one where no one has lived for at least 30 days in a row.
Does my landlord insurance include occupied home cover?
Landlord building insurance does not generally include unoccupied home cover. Landlords need to speak to their insurer to arrange the extra cover.
Does it cost extra?
Unoccupied home cover costs more than standard insurance because providers argue the property is at greater risk from flood, fire and burglary.
Does it cover contents in a buy to let?
Unoccupied home cover relates to the building, not the contents. Landlords with contents cover for furnished lets may need to arrange extra cover for their possessions as well.
Where can I shop for unoccupied home cover?
Start with your current insurer. Compare the deal with quotes from online comparison sites, brokers and specialist companies. Like any insurance, shop around for the best cover at the cheapest price.