Home insurance for unoccupied properties

Unoccupied home insurance: a guide

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Whether you’re on holiday or you’re planning to sell, it’s often inevitable that your home will be unoccupied for a time – here’s how to make sure it stays covered while it’s empty.

Empty room

What is unoccupied home insurance?

Unoccupied home insurance is insurance you take out if your home is going to be empty for a stretch of time that’s longer than your standard policy will allow. Standard policies often only provide cover for an empty home for 30-60 days - and if anything were to happen outside this period you would likely not be covered.

When your home is empty for a long time, the risk of incidents like theft and robbery increase as there is no one at home to prevent it from happening. An unoccupied home also carries a higher risk of structural damage – for example, if a pipe bursts and there’s no-one there to sort it, there could be a lot more damage caused.

This is why unoccupied insurance can be so important.                               

What does unoccupied home insurance cover?

If you’re taking out unoccupied home insurance for when your home is empty, you may be able to find a policy that covers:

  • Storm, flood, or fire damage: if any damage is caused to your home as a result of a storm, flood, or fire while you’re away.
  • Escape of water or oil: if a pipe bursts or there’s a leakage of oil or water somewhere in the house and it causes damage while the home is unoccupied.
  • Theft and/or attempted theft: if someone successfully breaks in or attempts to break into your home and steals your belongings.
  • Vandalism: if criminal damage occurs to your home in your absence.
  • Legal expenses: if you need to pay legal fees for the removal of squatters, for trespassers, or for personal identity theft.
  • Public liability insurance: if damage is caused by a property that you are responsible for, for example, if a roof tile falls and breaks a car window.

It’s important to remember that insurance policies can vary between providers, so they won’t all provide the same cover. Reading the policy documents carefully before buying can help you choose the right deal with the level of coverage you require.

What’s not covered by unoccupied home insurance?

Unoccupied home insurance can be helpful, but you might find that your insurer will reject your claim due to:

  • Unforced entry: leaving your doors and windows unlocked or open is generally a sure-fire way to void a home insurance policy, because thieves and squatters could access your home without forcing entry.
  • Major works: some insurers might even refuse to cover incidents that happen when major works are being undertaken, including an extension or repairs to the home’s structure.
  • Contractors: if you’ve hired contractors to work on your home while it’s unoccupied, you might not be covered for any damage they cause. Contractors should have their own insurance which should cover the damage.

Who is unoccupied home insurance for?

There are a number of reasons a home may be temporarily empty. For example, you might find a building is unoccupied if:

  • It’s for sale, and you’ve already moved into a new home
  • It’s not your main place of residence, but a holiday home or a home you’ve inherited
  • You’ve just bought it, but don’t plan on moving in for a while
  • You’re travelling for an extended length of time, either on holiday or for a business trip
  • You’re a landlord and you’re between tenants
  • You’ve been taken into long-term medical care
  • The building is being renovated and isn’t safe to live in
  • You’re waiting for a probate

If any of these apply and your home is likely to be empty, it’s worth looking at policies for unoccupied home insurance to make sure you’re covered in case of an emergency.

An image showing that it is 11% more expensive to buy home insurance if your home is for sale

It is 11% more expensive to buy home insurance if your home is for sale, according to MoneySuperMarket data from January – June 2018.

How much does unoccupied home insurance cost?

The cost of insurance for unoccupied homes can vary between providers and between policies, but the average price of cover for homes that are empty for 31-60 days is £118. The exact cost for insuring your unoccupied home could be higher of lower because it takes into account things like:

  • Property value: for more expensive properties and belongings, the replacement and repair costs can be higher than usual, so the premiums you’ll pay to cover them when you’re away will also go up.
  • Property location: likewise, if your home is in an area with a statistically higher chance of burglary, this may also cause the price of insurance to go up – particularly when the home is unoccupied.
  • Property security: if you can improve the security and safety features of your home when it’s unoccupied to help prevent burglaries, thefts, and potential water damage, this might help you find a cheaper quote.
  • Level of coverage: the more extensive the unoccupied home insurance is, the more it’s likely to cost.

An image showing that the average cost of insuring your home if it’s unoccupied for 31 - 60 days is £118.

The average cost of insuring your home if it’s unoccupied for 31 - 60 days is £118, according to MoneySuperMarket data from January – June 2018.

How long is your home going to be unoccupied?

While standard home insurance generally comes in yearlong terms, unoccupied homes don’t always stay empty for 12 months. This is why insurers usually offer unoccupied home insurance in policies lasting:

  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months

If you think you’ll be away for longer, or if it happens unexpectedly, you’ll normally be able to extend your policy as well. For example, if you’re stuck abroad on holiday and all flights are grounded, or if your house selling process is taking longer than originally planned.

Claiming on unoccupied home insurance

You should check if your insurer has any specific terms about how to make a claim – for example, if you need to contact them instantly or if you need to file a police report.

There are also some things you should consider before claiming:

  • No claims bonus: insurers often offer discounts on the price of your policy if you haven’t claimed for a long time. So if you make a claim you’ll lose this bonus and will see your premiums go up as a result.
  • Excess: if you are going to claim, you’ll need to pay a certain amount towards the claim before your insurer will pay out – this is known as the excess. In some cases, this can be quite expensive, so it might be worth checking if it’s cheaper to deal with the problem yourself – this way you can keep your no claims discount and avoid paying the excess.

Comparing unoccupied home insurance

If you’re going away and you know your home will be empty, comparing unoccupied home insurance can help you find the right policy for you – so you’re insured for the right amount of time, for all the things you need cover for.

You can browse different quotes from a variety of insurers with MoneySuperMarket and compare them by their price, the quality of cover, the excess they need, and the feedback each policy has received from customers.

All you’ll need to do is enter a few details about your home and its occupants, your area, and the details about your trip away – you’ll then be able to search through different deals so you can find the policy that best matches your needs.

You should also keep in mind that the cheapest deal isn’t always the best – you’ll be better off looking for unoccupied home insurance that ticks every box you require, including the time you’re away and the things you want cover for. This means it’s important to check the policy documents carefully before confirming your choice, so you know the specifics about what’s included.

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