It might be tempting to assume that the insurance you arranged for your home or buy to let investment simply continues as normal if the property needs to be left vacant for a while, and unoccupied property insurance is definitely worth considering.
Take a closer look at the relevant insurance policy, however, and you are almost certain to discover that once your property has been empty for a certain number of consecutive days – typically 30-60 days, depending on your insurer – the standard level of cover is significantly reduced or lapses altogether. Your property is no longer protected in the manner and to the extent it was when you or your tenants occupied by the building.
Empty buildings represent a greater risk, a greater vulnerability, than those which are occupied:
- when there is no one on the premises, otherwise relatively minor repairs or maintenance issues may go unrecognised and develop into major disasters; and
- the fact that a building is empty might in itself attract theft, trespassers, vandals and other unwelcome attention;
- arson is a particular concern and examples of the kind of risk assessment that may be necessary is described by the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
Heightened risks such as these prompt standard building and contents insurers to curb or terminate cover once a property becomes empty for longer than a month or so.
Unoccupied property insurance
Here at GSI Insurance, we recognise that although there may be any number of reasons why your property needs to be left empty for a month or more, you still need it safeguarded in the same way as when it is occupied.
For this reason, we specialise in the provision of unoccupied property insurance which maintains comprehensive cover for your home or let property even when it is empty.
Mitigating the risks
Although empty property insurance is designed to maintain protection against unintentional or deliberate loss or damage to your premises, your insurer is entitled to count on your help in mitigating any risks.
There are many steps you may take to help keep an empty building more secure and these are given in some detail in a guide to vacant property published by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) – a guide which also notes that arson is responsible for more than a half of all known instances of fires in empty industrial and commercial premises.
Many of these measures may be self-evident and largely a matter of common sense, including:
- ensuring that the building is in a good state of repair and maintenance tasks have been completed before it is vacated;
- arranging regular visits – and maintaining a written log of each visit – to ensure that the building remains secure and that no new repairs or maintenance are required (this particular point may typically also be a requirement of your unoccupied property insurance cover);
- enlisting the help of neighbours in reporting untoward events and helping to give the impression that the building is in fact occupied – by parking their car on your driveway from time to time, for example; and
- generally making every effort not to advertise the fact that the premises in question are unoccupied.
Although your empty property is vulnerable to heightened risks when it needs to be left empty for a month or more, unoccupied property insurance helps to maintain the comprehensive protection you are likely to need – provided you also play your part in mitigating the risks of loss or damage.
Read more: GSI Guide to unoccupied property insurance.