Last updated: 23/07/2020
Unoccupied home insurance
Vacant homes are more likely to be targeted by burglars, suffer burst pipes or uncontrolled leaks, and to sustain severe damage in fires and storms. That’s why most home insurance policies are invalidated after a property has been vacant for more than 30, 45, or 60 consecutive days
You’ll need to get a specialised unoccupied home insurance policy for properties that are unoccupied for longer than that period, whether they’re second homes, undergoing renovation, or awaiting sale. Empty house insurance provides cover for the structure and contents of unoccupied properties, typically for a period of up to a year.
In This Guide:
- When do you need unoccupied home insurance?
- What does unoccupied home insurance cover?
- What won’t be covered by unoccupied home insurance?
- What conditions need to be met for the insurance to be valid?
When do you need unoccupied home insurance?
Standard home insurance policies are only valid when a home is regularly occupied. If a property is left vacant for more than a certain period of time - typically 30, 45, or 60 days, depending on the insurer - its home insurance policy will be invalidated, and any claims made for damage or loss to structures and items in the property during that time will be rejected.
Insurers are reluctant to extend coverage to homes that are vacant long-term because empty properties are more likely to be targeted by thieves and other criminals. And if no one is present in a property to spot problems like fires and leaks, damage is more likely to be extensive - and expensive for your insurance provider.
But the reality is that there are many vacant homes in the UK: more than 216,000 homes in England have been empty for more than six months. Homes are often uninhabited because they’re undergoing renovation or are still on the market for sale after the owners have moved to another property. Rented properties can sit empty between tenants. Sometimes people leave the country or local area for work or go travelling for extended periods of time. Other people have second or holiday homes they only occupy seasonally.
If your home is going to be empty for more than a month or two, you’ll need to get a specialised unoccupied home insurance policy for it. These policies will protect an empty home from damage to its structure and contents caused by natural disasters, fires, leaks, crime, and other misfortunes.
What does unoccupied home insurance cover?
Typically, unoccupied home insurance policies cover damage to or loss of structures and contents caused by:
- fire and smoke
- storms, lightning strikes, and other natural disasters
- leaking pipes or heating systems
- burglary or attempted burglary
- subsidence or heave
- fallen trees, aerials, lampposts, or satellite dishes
- vehicle or aircraft collisions
- frost damage to internal pipes
But each policy will be different. When you compare home insurance policies, you should read the terms and conditions before purchasing to see what it specifically covers and excludes. It’s advisable to read it again before filing a claim.
Unoccupied home insurance policies can also cover legal expenses, including related to the removal of squatters, or public liability - when the uninhabited property is responsible for injury to someone or damage to someone else’s property or possessions.
What won’t be covered by unoccupied home insurance?
All insurance policies have exclusions: events which they will not cover. For unoccupied home insurance, this typically includes:
- Unforced Entry: if the windows and the doors of the property aren’t secured with industry approved locks, claims for damage and theft will be denied
- Renovation: if the property is undergoing extensive renovation, such as having an extension added, insurers may refuse to cover for incidents that happen during these major works
- Contractors: damage caused by contractors will not be covered by the policy. Contractors should have their own insurance, which will cover damage they inadvertently cause to properties on which they are working.
What conditions need to be met for the insurance to be valid?
Insurers will ask you for information about the vacant property, including its security and condition, as part of the underwriting process and may deny you coverage. Additionally, they can reject claims if certain conditions outlined in the paperwork aren’t met.
If the building is in poor condition, with boarded up doors and broken windows, you may struggle to obtain any coverage for it. Properties need to be secured with industry-approved locks. Insurers may require you have activated burglar alarms and timer-controlled heating, to ensure pipes don’t freeze and then burst during the winter. You may also need to perform (or have someone else perform) regular checks on the property.
Insurers may also require you switch off all utilities - including water and energy - and drain the entire water system.