Second home insurance

How to insure your second home

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If you’re lucky enough to own a second home (or a third, a fourth or a fifth), you probably want to make sure it’s insured as well as your main residence is. But what you might not know is that you can’t legally insure a second home with a standard home insurance policy.

In fact, second homes are treated differently by the law in all sorts of ways, including for the purposes of council tax and capital gains tax, as well as home insurance. So what makes a house a second home? 

There are several deciding factors, including:

  • How much time you spend at each property
  • Which address you use for legal, voting and banking purposes
  • Where you keep most of your possessions
  • Where your family spend most of their time

Second home insurance might use a different policy, but it covers the same main things as regular home insurance:

Buildings insurance

This covers the full cost of rebuilding your home from the ground up, including materials and labour, but not the value of the land it’s built on

Contents insurance

This covers what’s inside your house: everything you own, from jewellery and electronics to clothes and furniture, including white goods and fittings

Combined insurance

A joint policy which covers the whole works – the structure of your home and your belongings. It’s often cheaper than buying two separate policies

There are certain types of property which don’t count as second homes for insurance purposes – and which will need a different type of policy to get them covered. If you own any of the following, second home insurance is not the right choice:

Holiday

Unoccupied properties

Rental properties

Unoccupied rentals

Can I have two home insurance policies?

If you have more than one home, yes. Each property you own needs its own insurance policy, because each home is different. Either they’re constructed out of different materials, or the risks in the local area are different.

Why do you need a different type of policy for second home insurance?

Even if you visit your second home regularly, you live in it for a lot less of the time than your main residence. This means there are certain additional risks.

For instance, a home that’s often unoccupied can be more attractive to thieves. What’s more, if anything goes wrong, like a broken window or a burst pipe, you might not be around to catch it early – meaning the repair bill could be much higher. Insurers take account of that in the premiums they offer you.

Can I insure a house I don’t live in?

Yes you can, though you’ll need an insurance policy for unoccupied homes rather than a second home insurance policy.

Do you need special insurance for listed buildings?

Listed buildings and buildings with unusual construction, such as thatched roofs, need specialist insurance products. They’ll cost you more to insure, because they’re more expensive to repair.

What makes somewhere your ‘main residence’?

Everyone’s situation is different, but in law you must have a main residence. There are a few considerations for deciding on what constitutes this, including:

  • Where you live for longest
  • Where your family lives for the longest
  • Where you are registered to vote and pay tax
  • Where you keep your personal possessions

Is it more expensive to insure an empty house?

Yes, because there are many more things that can go wrong in a house that’s empty for a while. A burst pipe over winter can cause massive repair bills if you don’t see it for six months, for instance.

Houses need constant maintenance, and your insurance policy will reflect the additional potential costs.

What optional extras can I get for second home insurance?

As with all home insurance policies, there are plenty of additions you can include in your policy for a small surcharge. The most popular include the following:

  • Accidental damage: This will cover damage to possessions caused by human accident
  • Legal expense cover: This will cover legal expenses incurred by something going wrong in your home that affects someone else, including leaks and subsidence
  • Home emergency cover: This covers the cost of emergency call-outs to fix problems with your utilities, including plumbing, heating and electricity
  • Garden insurance: This specifically covers your garden, and the plants, ornaments and furniture you keep there
  • Garage insurance: Garages are often full of valuable tools and equipment, and a specific policy can be useful peace of mind
  • Shed insurance: Likewise, sheds tend to be full of expensive kit and a separate policy might be a wise idea

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