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How to insure and protect your empty house

GSI Insurance

There are a number of reasons why you might be left with an empty house. This can include properties going through probate, a property undergoing a sale, a second home, or a holiday home. It could also include a let property that is between tenants and is unlikely to be occupied again for a couple of months.

Various sources suggest that there is usually upwards of half-a-million homes in the UK sitting unoccupied at any one time.

It is worth noting that empty home insurance is different from a standard home insurance policy, and if it is going to sit unoccupied for more than a couple of weeks, you are usually better off arranging a specialist policy.

What are the increased risks of unoccupied property insurance?

It could be argued that if a property isn’t being used, the risk of damage (such as accidents caused by people living in it) would be reduced, but the main reason for needing specialist insurance is due to insurers wanting to protect themselves from some of the risks that increase dramatically while a home is left empty. These can include:

  • Escape of water from frozen pipes, particularly during a cold winter
  • Break-ins and vandalism, if a property looks to be un-used it can become a target
  • In very extreme cases, fire damage from arson
  • While squatting is now illegal, any damage it might cause can be difficult to recover

For example, you may find that an existing home insurance policy may continue to offer some coverage even when a home is unoccupied, but the cover may be severely restricted to exclude some or all of the above eventualities.

It is also worth checking if you have any contractual requirements. For example, your mortgage may not only require buildings insurance but may also stipulate certain perils that the policy is covering you for.

Insurance costs may be higher given the increased risk being taken on by the insurers

Can I arrange short-term insurance?

While a majority of property insurance policies are yearly contracts, it is understood that unoccupancy can be temporary. For example, some insurers stop providing cover for a property left unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days, so if you are going to be away for less than a month, the policy you have in place might be sufficient.

Beyond that, some companies may offer 3, 6, and 9-month options to you, allowing you to offset some of the additional cost for the increase in risk, as well as arrange insurance that is flexible for you.

Generally, an insurer offering a specialist unoccupied property insurance policy is going to impose a few conditions before they are able to offer you the cover. These aim to help keep your home safe and reduce the chance of a claim occurring.

What requirements might they impose?

The most common requirement is that the property be inspected regularly by you or a responsible adult. Not only does this make it look like the property is still in use, in case it is being watched by potential vandals and thieves, but also makes it possible to catch any potential problems before they lead to a costly claim. This could be a time period ranging between 7-30 days, and will be advised to you at the point of arranging cover.

You may be required to secure your home with approved locks to all doors and windows, particularly if you are trying to insure contents that are still in the property, or you are trying to get cover for theft and malicious damage.

Burst or frozen pipes are also of concern, particularly in the winter months. An insurance policy may require mains water to be switched off, and for the system to be drained. An alternative to this could be that the central heating be maintained at a certain temperature, such as 15 degrees centigrade, for example.

Insuring your empty home with GSI Insurance Services (Southern) Ltd

If you are a current policyholder of ours, then we may be able to change your current policy to allow for an extended period of unoccupancy. Failing that, we can explore a number of options from our other providers, tailoring a solution that best suits your individual requirements.

We will give you a full overview of the terms that you need to be aware of, and can often select an insurer based on how you are able to manage the property, such as the length of time between inspections.

Also for new customers, if your current company has been unable to accommodate your requirements, we would be delighted to assist.

Feel free to give us a call on 0800 612 9376 or complete an online quote form for unoccupied property insurance.


Last updated January 2022

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