Temporary Home Insurance
Temporary home insurance caters for people who need to protect their property - their home and its contents - because they are going to be absent for a lengthy period. Standard house insurance policies won't do the job because the cover they provide isn't valid if the property is unoccupied for a period of 30 days or more.
There are a number of reasons why your house could be empty for more than 30 days at a time, triggering a need for temporary home insurance.
You might, for example, be lucky enough to spend several weeks or months of the year at a holiday home. Or you might be unlucky enough to be in hospital for a protracted period.
If you're having major renovations done to the property or building an extension, you might move into alternative accommodation until the work is complete. Or you might need to move to a new home before you have sold the old one. It will still need insurance protection.
Then there are people waiting for probate on a property that is empty following the death of the occupant. Again, it is essential that cover is in place.
An empty house is still vulnerable to damage by fire, flood or storm. If you spend the winter abroad, you'll be leaving your property to face the worst the UK weather can bring, burst pipes and all.
And you could argue that a house left unoccupied for 30 days or more is bound to be attractive to any burglars or vandals who spotted that you were away, knowing they would be able to go about their criminal activity undisturbed. But remember - standard home insurance will not pay out if the property is unoccupied for 30 consecutive days.
There's also a cost issue. If you only need insurance for three or six months, why pay for a normal 12-month policy when you can buy temporary house insurance?
So how does temporary house insurance work?
The cover you get is the same as on a standard house insurance policy. The big difference - and the main attraction - is that there is no requirement for the house to be occupied for any set number of days. You tell the insurer why you need the cover and, in most cases, they will create a policy to suit your particular needs.
That doesn't mean you can skip on reading through the terms and conditions, however, which is always important, whatever insurance you are buying. For example, if you are having building work done, you do not want a policy that specifically excludes damage caused by contractors.
Many policies also exclude loss or damage caused as a result of unforced entry - so double check that you have closed and locked all windows and doors before going away. And look to see if your policy specifies which type of locks you must use.
You may also find that some firms will only allow you to buy a certain number of temporary home insurance contracts in any given 12-month period. The best tactic is to tell the insurance company what your plans and requirements are and see if they can come up with the goods. If not, you can take your business elsewhere.
What does temporary home insurance cost?
Temporary buildings and contents insurance can look expensive compared to standard cover, but this is because unoccupied properties present a bigger risk to the insurance company. For example, if you suffer a burst pipe following an icy spell and thaw, it could be several weeks before anyone notices the problem, making the damage that much more severe. And there's the unwelcome fact that, if burglars know your property is empty, they might be tempted to make the most of your absence.
But it is important to have cover in place. You can insure the buildings and the contents separately and perhaps make do without contents cover if you have moved to a new home and are simply waiting to sell.
The insurance company should help you determine the correct sum insured for the buildings insurance, which covers the bricks and mortar and permanent fixtures and fittings. The amount of cover will be sufficient to rebuild your house if it were destroyed. In some areas of the UK this amount will actually be less than the value of the house on the property market, so don't simply put down that figure. You may end up paying for more cover than you need.
If you need contents cover, don't underestimate the value of your possessions. Go through each room in your house and itemize what's there and what it would cost to replace. You might be surprised at the total. This is the amount of cover you need.
The insurance company should help you determine the correct sum insured for the buildings insurance
Saving money on temporary home insurance
As with all forms of insurance, it is important to shop around if you need temporary home insurance protection.
Tactics for reducing your premiums include:
- Opting for a bigger excess (the amount you pay towards the cost of any claim). The standard compulsory excess might be, say, £250, but if you take a higher voluntary excess the premium will come down;
- Boosting your security measures. The policy will often specify a minimum required level of security in terms of door and window locks. You may get a lower premium if you increase security and deterrence, for example by fitting an alarm;
- If you buy both buildings and contents cover from the same company on a combined policy, you may get a discount.