Guide to unoccupied property insurance
- Regular home insurance policies are invalid if the property is empty for longer than the period stipulated in the terms and conditions, which is often in the region of 30 days
- Speak to your insurer before leaving a property vacant and think about taking out dedicated unoccupied property cover
- With dedicated unoccupied property insurance, typical policy periods tend to be three, six, nine or 12 months, with the option to extend if required
- Ensure you prepare the property for its unoccupied period to help avoid exclusions on any insurance policy
Unoccupied property insurance can provide cover for your home if it's left empty.
A standard home insurance policy will only cover an empty house for a set period, which will be defined in the terms and conditions.
This is typically in the region of 30 days, but some policies will stipulate a shorter period of time, while others will stretch to 45 days or more; around two months is likely to be the maximum length of unoccupied cover you'll find available through a regular home insurance policy.
If you compare home insurance policies through Gocompare.com, you'll be asked if the property is left unoccupied for longer than 30 days and, if so, whether it's for 30-45 days, or more than 45 days.
Ensure you answer accurately, but note that the longer the property is unoccupied for the fewer insurers you'll have to choose from, and the higher your premiums are likely to be.
If you can't find a suitable quote or you need cover for an extended period of time, try the dedicated unoccupied property insurance options you see on this page. A specific unoccupied property insurance policy can make sure that you have adequate protection whilst your property is vacant.
An empty property policy could provide cover for the building and/or contents in properties that are left vacant for 30 days or more.
Typical examples may be when the property is:
- Awaiting probate
- Awaiting sale or occupation
- Undergoing refurbishment or renovation
- Vacant due to the occupier's absence, such as when they have a second home, are travelling, have been hospitalised or taken into care
In some cases your regular home insurer may agree to cover your property whilst it's empty, but the policy may not be comprehensive and is likely to be subject to a lot of exclusions, which could leave you out of pocket if you have to make a claim.
"If you're planning to be away from your home for more than 30 days, don't run the risk of leaving it uninsured," said Gocompare.com's Ben Wilson.
"Always double check with your home insurance provider whether you'll be covered past this time period and to what level and, if you're not satisfied, consider unoccupied property insurance."
Note that, if you're not able to yourself, it could also be a good idea to ask a neighbour or friend to keep an eye on your property and pick up post on a regular basis, making it less obvious to potential thieves that the house is unoccupied.
What will unoccupied house insurance cover?
- Storm damage
- Property owner liability, for example if a tree from your property falls and damages your neighbour's house
How long can an empty property be covered for?
Policies are normally quite flexible and typical policy periods tend to be three, six, nine or 12 months, with the option to extend if required.
Make sure that every entry point to your home is secure
Ben Wilson, Gocompare.com
Requirements for empty property insurance
Before an insurer will offer you an unoccupied property insurance policy, they'll want to know what condition your property is in.
If the building is in a poor state of repair with broken windows and boarded-up entrances, they're unlikely to insure it.
It can also be a good idea to remove any valuables that you have at the property and keep them somewhere safer.
Some insurers may require you to take steps to protect your home whilst you're away, such as having approved locks on your doors and windows, a working burglar alarm and timer-controlled heating to ensure that your pipes don't burst in cold weather.
You may also need to switch off all utilities and drain the water system. Read more about things to consider in our article on mothballing an empty property.
Factors affecting unoccupied insurance premiums
As with all insurance policies, there will be a number of factors that the insurer will take into consideration when calculating your premiums.
If you have an alarm, ensure that it's activated when you're away or it could invalidate your insurance
The importance of each factor will differ between insurers meaning that premiums can vary, so it's important to shop around for a policy that suits your needs.
"The security of your property will have a huge effect on your premium, so make sure that every entry point to your home is secure," said Wilson.
"If you have an alarm, ensure that it's activated when you're away or it could invalidate your insurance."
Every policy will have exclusions that apply to it, but they'll vary from insurer to insurer so always read your terms and conditions.
Examples of typical exclusions to look out for include:
- Loss or damage as a result of unforced entry eg when windows or doors are left open or unlocked
- Damage caused by major works, for example extensions and structural repairs
- Damage caused by contractors (contractors should have their own insurance)
By Abbie Laughton-Coles