If you are wondering whether you need empty property insurance, take a moment to think about why the home you live in or let to tenants might need to be left unoccupied for anything longer than a month or so:
- you are off to work on a short-term contract abroad – or even in a different part of the country – for a while;
- the property is being refurbished or substantially redecorated and is unfit for occupation whilst the works are in progress;
- if it is let property, there may be a delay between one set of tenants moving out and their successors moving in;
- you might be fortunate enough to be taking an extended or long-stay visit overseas;
- you might be moving home and have already moved into your new house, waiting for the previous one to be sold; or
- a property in which you might have an interest is currently subject to probate, awaiting any decision on its longer-term fate.
In any one of these circumstances, it is important that you give careful thought to the status of the home or landlord insurance which normally protects the property you own.
The reason for doing so is because most insurers are going to restrict or lift altogether the cover for any property which has been left unoccupied for 30 to 45 days or so (the precise limit varying from one insurer to another).
Without the insurance cover which normally covers the structure and fabric of the property and its contents, you are especially vulnerable to the financial risk of making good any loss or damage.
That is why purpose designed unoccupied property insurance is needed to plug the gap and restore the protection needed by your property whilst it lies empty. At GSI Insurance, we have published a more detailed guide about some of the benefits of this type of specialist insurance.
Vulnerability of an empty property
The reason for many other regular insurers becoming more than wary of a vacant property is because of the additional risks to which it is exposed. When there is no one living there:
- the property gains the unwelcome attentions of burglars, vandals, arsonists and squatters; and
- what might ordinarily be a relatively minor and routine maintenance problem might turn into a major disaster is no one is there to take prompt action.
These increased risks are neatly summed up in an advice note prepared by the local council in Stockton, which warns that an unoccupied property is at greater risk of criminal damage and vandalism, and have higher repair and maintenance costs than one which remain in more or less continuous occupation.
As the property owner, you still have a responsibility for minimising the risks of loss or damage from such threats, of course, but empty property insurance is designed to continue the protection you need for the building and its contents.
It is typically a very flexible product, which takes into account the duration of any period the property may be vacant. If it is only for a few months, for example, you may buy cover for just that period, rather than for the full 12 months. On the other hand, if your plans change and the property is going to be empty for longer than you anticipated, it is generally possible simply to extend the period of empty property insurance.