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Tips to keep your unoccupied property safe over winter

When dealing with an unoccupied property, the risks may be different to those when it is lived in. The severity of any risk is likely to be amplified. When a property is left empty over the winter, those risks are likely to become still more severe once again.

The change in the basis for assessing risks faced by an empty property explains why regular insurers of the buildings and their contents typically reduce the level of cover in place once the premises have been unoccupied for more than about a month, whilst some insurers regard the cover as having lapsed entirely.

To maintain an adequate degree of protection whilst your property is vacant, therefore, a special form of cover, known as unoccupied property insurance, may need to be arranged – of the kind we provide here at GSI Insurance.

Tips on preparing the empty property for winter

Although you may have arranged insurance, your responsibilities do not stop there. Insurers typically expect you to take all reasonable precautions to mitigate any risk of loss or damage – including those created by the adverse seasonal conditions:

  • ensure that general maintenance regimes are up to date and any repairs made well before the winter gales, snow and ice – property managers VPS Specialists, for instance, suggest that repairs to a poorly maintained roof which has collapsed under the weight of snow may easily run into five figures;
  • another property management specialist in unoccupied property, hcr, also quotes statistics suggesting that home owners are three times more likely to face water damage to their houses than they are to have been the victims of theft or attempted theft and that the average claim for damage caused by the escape of water in an empty property is some £25,000;
  • water damage may be caused by burst pipes or by flooding after winter storms;
  • to help prevent the former, you might want to ensure that all pipework is adequately lagged and consider leaving the heating system turned on and set at its lowest “frost” setting;
  • flood prevention measures may pose more of a problem and their necessity may be more urgent in areas prone to flooding in the past than other locations – the Environment Agency publishes a searchable online map showing those areas in England and Wales most likely to be affected by flooding from rivers or the sea;
  • unattended damage may cause more severe problems simply because no one is keeping an eye on the empty property – insurers typically insist, therefore, that regular visits are made, and a log of inspections made, either by trusted friends or relations or a professional property management and security service;
  • unfortunately neither thieves not vandals tend to hibernate simply because it is winter – keeping your home secure against such threats and taking simple steps to ensure that you are not obviously advertising the fact that the premises are empty are more than common sense solutions.

You may be a landlord with a void in tenancy; a homeowner fortunate enough to take an extended holiday to escape this country’s miserable winter weather; you may be working away from home for several months; or there may be any number of other reasons for leaving your home empty this winter. With some forethought, planning and a handful of simple measures, however, you may help to keep the property safe and sound.

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