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Do you need unoccupied property insurance?

You might not even have heard of it, but there is a particular, distinct class of insurance that become necessary once your property has become empty and occupied after a certain period of time – appropriately enough it is called empty or unoccupied property insurance.

Why is your property empty?

Whether it is your own home, a property you have bought to let, an office or other commercial premises, there are a number of reasons why the building might be empty:

  • you might be refurbishing, improving or remodelling, for example, and the building cannot be used whilst building works are in progress;
  • indeed, you might have bought a previously empty property with the express purpose of doing it up;
  • you might be going on an extended holiday – to visit friends or relatives who live on the other side of the world, for instance;
  • your work might be taking you to a different part of the country, or even abroad, for several months;
  • if the property is normally let, there may be a prolonged gap between the termination of one tenancy and your finding new tenants to take on a new lease; or

A major incident, such as a fire or flooding, might have left the property temporarily uninhabitable or unsuitable for use until remedial work has been carried out.

But I always keep the property insured

Even if you already have standard home insurance, standard cover for commercial premises, or landlord’s insurance on a buy to let property, there may still be a need for specialist empty property insurance if it is unoccupied for more than a month or so.

This is because insurers typically reduce the level of cover offered – or consider it to have lapsed altogether – once it has been empty for between 30 and 45 consecutive days (the exact period likely to vary from one insurer to another). This might leave your property with only the barest minimum of cover – or none at all.

Why does normal cover lapse in this way?

Insurance is all about risk, and insurers quite simply take the view that an empty or unoccupied property is at greater risk than one in normal continuous use. With good reason, too, as commercial property agents DTZ point out.

What is the answer?

The answer lies in arranging a quite separate form of unoccupied property insurance which restores full cover and protection to your property whilst it is unoccupied. As a specialist form of cover, you might want to consult experts in this particular field – such as those of us here at GSI Insurance, where we have also published a guide to insurance for empty properties.

Playing your part

There is more to looking after an empty property than simply arranging unoccupied property insurance, of course. Any insurer expects you to play your part in mitigating the risks of loss or damage – and you might invalidate your cover if you fail to do so.

Some of the more obvious precautions include:

  • avoiding advertising the fact that the building is empty – either on site or in classified advertisements or online listings;
  • alarms are an effective deterrent – and even if a fully-wired and operational system proves too expensive a “dummy” installation might be enough to deter opportunist thieves;
  • it probably goes without saying – so just as important to remember – but locks on all doors and windows need to be a suitable quality;
  • the garden and areas surrounding the property need to be kept tidy and well-maintained, with the minimum of clutter, and certainly no ladders in plain view;
  • a friend or neighbour’s car occasionally parked on your driveway overnight might help to give the impression that the house is still occupied; and
  • regular, logged inspections need to be conducted to ensure that security remains intact and that any maintenance tasks are attended to before they develop into major disasters.

With specialist unoccupied property insurance – and a little help from you – therefore, security and protection for your empty building may be fully maintained.

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