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Do I need to insure an empty property?

Yes! And this applies whether yours is a buy to let investment or you are an owner-occupier – if you are going to have an empty property for typically 30-45 consecutive days, then your existing landlords or home insurance will not be valid.

We say “typically 30-45 consecutive days” because the exact amount of time depends on the insurer. For example, if you have an owner-occupier home insurance or landlord insurance policy, your policy wording for your existing cover will stipulate how long the property can be unoccupied before the cover becomes restricted or even invalid.

At that time, you will need to buy unoccupied property insurance to cover the extra risks that your property now faces (for example, it will be more vulnerable to vandals and thieves; small domestic issues, such as a leak which could go unnoticed for weeks, could cause extensive damage, and so on).

When is a property classed as empty?

Even if the property has furniture in it, if there is no one actually living at the property for a defined period of time (as mentioned above, this will be highlighted in your existing insurance policy), then it is deemed as being empty or unoccupied.

There could be any number of reasons why a property is empty:

You are an owner-occupier who:

  • has inherited a property that you need to sell;
  • is going away for work or pleasure for an extended period of time;
  • is having extensive renovations carried out at your home, meaning you have to move in to temporary accommodation; etc.

You are a landlord who:

  • has a tenancy void;
  • has bought a property which you are renovating before tenants move in;  etc.

Getting covered

It is important that you continue to cover your property, even if it is an empty property. If you have any type of mortgage on your property, then legally, under the terms of your contract with your mortgage lender, you are obliged to have appropriate buildings insurance at the very least.

If you know your property will soon be classed as unoccupied, or it already is, in the first instance, talk to your current insurer. They can discuss your options with you as to getting additional cover.

Also note that policy features and benefits vary from provider to provider, but important elements of cover to have over and above the usual fire, flood and storm damage elements, typically could include:

  • subsidence insurance (contrary to popular belief, this does not form a standard part of all insurance policies – though it does with ours at GSI Insurance); and
  • malicious damage.

When you get your empty property insurance, do familiarise yourself with your obligations under the policy – typically you (or a representative) will need to make regular, logged checks on the property as well as meet certain security criteria.

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